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Conflict and disagreements are an unavoidable part of the human condition, in the workplace and in our personal lives. So much so that you’d think we’d be taught how to deal with it better. We are complex beings with powerful ambitions, needs, wishes and desires, so clashes of wills are inevitable.

But even though disagreements unavoidable, they don’t have to escalate If you know the steps to take, conflict can be re-directed to relationship strengthening conversation.

The alternative is painful. When conflict is handled badly the negative effects of conflict are damaging. They can do harm that will never be repaired.

Stress

Personal stress is top of the list because it is the most immediate and harmful. Stress can be a driver but it rarely motivates us to deal with conflict productively. In fact, stress usually ups the ante and makes the conflict worse.

Relationships

Relationship conflict is toxic, so poorly handled relationship conflict can do permanent damage. We need people and we like harmony. There is a direct correlation between the quality of your relationships and the quality of your life and even longevity.

Work

Conflict at work costs billions. It causes errors and misjudgements, lowers productivity and raises employee turnover. It can ruin your working life if you are caught up in an unresolved conflict, even if you are trapped in the crossfire of someone else’s dispute. You don’t have to be directly involved to suffer the consequences of conflict. Unresolved workplace conflict affects far more than the people involved in the dispute.

Social

It is no accident that How to Win Friends and Influence People is one of the world’s top-selling books. We need people. Conflict between friends and associates can lead to a lasting rift and permanent regret. The saddest part is that so many of us allow things to fester; you might say that We Lose friends and Reject People. Yet, if you know how, this type of conflict is the most easily resolvable.

Health

Conflict is stressful, and stress affects your health. If you doubt this remember that ongoing stress has an impact on everything from anxiety and depression to the quality of your sleep (your Zzzs). It’s often overlooked that stress affects us physically in ways you often wouldn’t associate. Diet and digestion are the obvious ones, but stress is also implicated in many serious and long-term illnesses and conditions.

This is a summary, there’s a lot more I could say. The bottom line is that if you care about your quality of life then you should be able to feel confident about dealing with conflict.

See also:

The Meta-Conversation; a Step to Avoid Escalation

Having a Conversation About a Conversation

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