Conflict. The Mother of Creativity.

A sailor drowns among sink wreckage while thinking Bob in accounting is such a jerk

We’ve all been there. Battling a colleague over an idea. Dealing with an impossible personality who refuses to see your point of view. Arguing with some nincompoop who has no taste and all the authority to kill your ideas.

It’s maddening. And yet, the next time you sit there steaming, ready to come to blows, stop, breathe deep, and try to remember, a conflict is arguably (geesh, everything is an argument) one of the best opportunities to have a creative breakthrough.

When there’s no conflict, everything hums along, complacency sets in, and innovative thinking gets stymied. But when conflict arises, boom! Suddenly everyone wakes up. That’s when real change occurs.

In and of itself, conflict is neither positive nor negative. It all depends on how you manage it.

If you’re passionate about your ideas, and you wouldn’t be a creative person if you weren’t, it’s in your best interest to calm down, step back from your upset, and handle the conflict in a way that’s not only productive, but ultimately, builds teamwork.

But how?

Patience, of course, is the main thing. But beyond self-control, there are concrete steps you can take to turn the conflict into an opportunity.

1. Practice Empathy

Forget your own opinions for a while, and take your opponent’s point of view. Understand their motivations, which often have nothing whatsoever to do with the topic at hand. Try to argue their opinion so you can build a genuine understanding of their position. Not only will this allow you to better argue your case, but your opponent will be appreciative of your understanding and thus more likely to open their mind.

2. Listen

Really listen. Do not interrupt. Do not pre-judge as the words come out of their mouth. When your opponent sees that you’re genuinely interested in hearing what they have to say and absorbing it, they will almost always become less entrenched in their position. Even if you utterly disagree, it softens the barriers. You will never, ever lose by showing respect.

3. Pick Your Moment

You need to find a time when you can have your debate in a peaceful, calm environment. If it’s an emergency, be the bigger person, set aside your conflict and work with your opponent to solve it.

4. Trust Your Opponent

It’s not always easy to trust your opponent, but there’s always something you can find in the other person to relate to and believe in. You want to get into a place where you genuinely care about the relationship. They will sense it, and this will lead to honest dialogue. Arguing your case under the right mental condition will make a huge difference in the result, and your opponent will really appreciate it. 99% of the time, people don’t bother to even try.

5. Avoid Electronic Interactions

Texts and emails are constantly misinterpreted. Make the effort to meet face to face, hopefully in a casual, soothing environment.

6. Understand the Assumptions

If you want your opinion to prevail, you must understand and empathize with your opponent’s point of view. Often, intractable conflicts arise because the parties are working from two different sets of assumptions. Thus, what might be obvious to you flies right by your opponent. If you can be open-minded enough to embrace a different paradigm, even if only temporarily, you might learn things you were completely unaware of. Mind you, just because you understand the other person’s mindset doesn’t mean you have to agree with it. But making the effort to put yourself in their camp will give you a whole new perspective on the problem, and that is the mother of creativity.

7. Who Cares the Most?

Who will care most if the argument is lost? If it’s the other person, you might just consider giving in. By doing so, by showing the other person that you realize that their needs are more important than yours in this case, you will be building trust, and the next time a conflict rolls around, they might be more willing to return the favor.

8. Show Them You’re Trying to Accommodate

It takes patience, but calm down and try to make their idea work. Show them you get it, that you’re not a wall, that you are confident enough to bend. Don’t be stubborn. Don’t interrupt. Don’t be immovable. Your willingness to genuinely care about what your opponent wants will likely cause them to do the same for you.

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