By Steven G. Mehta

Jason Dykstra, a fellow blogger and mediator, at Absolution Mediation has a poll on his blog asking whether conflict is good or bad.  According to his poll, 72% thought that conflict was bad.  I disagree.  Conflict is great.  Here’s why.

Conflict, although often painful in the moment, can launch relationships to a new level of connectiveness.  It can be the critical enzyme needed to take the relationship to the next level.

Second, Conflict can be a warning sign.  It can let you know that something is not working.  It gives you the ability to try and find out what has gone wrong, and then gives you an opportunity to fix it.   A fire alarm is annoying, but can save your life.  Conflict can be your fire alarm.

Conflict shows you care.  One of the worst things a person can do to another person is shut down completely.  Often conflict shows that you care about the person enough to fight, to argue, to demonstrate your point.  Imagine you meet a complete stranger.  Do you care if he or she smokes, drinks and abuses drugs.  The answer may be, No unless it is affecting me.  Now change the person to your daughter or spouse.  Do you care now?  Will you create conflict with that person over those issues.    In the words of Sully in the movie Monsters Inc, “We scare, because we care.”

Without conflict, nothing would ever change.  Why does it need to change unless there is something that forces it to.  A long time ago, one of my supervisors gave me a review that I didn’t like.  It made me feel angry.   It created conflict.  It was the best thing to happen to me.  It forced me to change my work habits for the better.  Without it, I might not be where I am today.

Conflict can be good for your health.  Ernest Harburg and colleagues followed 192 couples over 17 years and placed the couples into one of four categories: the first contained both partners communicate their anger; the second and third groups contained one spouse who expressed, while the other suppressed, anger; and a fourth group in which both the husband and wife would suppress their anger and brood. Results found that when both spouses suppress their anger at the other when unfairly attacked, earlier death was twice as likely than in all other types.

As a reminder, to address some of the issues in conflict and to gain some tools on conflict resolution, have a look at my prior post CONFLICT RESOLUTION STRATEGIES FOR EVERYDAY USE.

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