Leading Clean: Killing Your Conflict Phobia

Avoiding Conflict

Afraid of conflicts? Always getting in conflicts and don’t know what to do? Are you avoiding conflicts because of the fear involved. 

Well, you may be suffering from conflict phobia. And it’s probably time to overcome that phobia and turn that fear into a strength!

“The key to deal with any conflict is to act like a true winner. And to do this is to look for a win-win outcome for everyone involved.”

On Conflict and Engagement

Conflicts occur when people have differing opinions or different ways of doing things. Conflicts are inevitable because, by nature human, people are different and work in different ways. We often come from different backgrounds and cultures and our thinking often varies, too.

People who have strong opinions often tend to get into observable conflicts with their counterparts more than others do. Or, said another way, certain people are “pre-wired” to engage in conflict and, upon observation, it will be overt and obvious to us when they do.

But why would people want to engage in conflict?

1) One reason is that these type of “determined people” are actually energized by the process of engaging in conflict. They actually like it (…think boxer…)! Or, perhaps, they value expediency and see that a quick and overt confrontation is a means to a quick and conclusive end to the dissonant discourse.

2) Conversely, people on the other end of the conflict-engagement-spectrum may tend to avoid conflict at all cost because it costs so much in terms of energy, effort, and emotional toil. To them, the perceived battle just isn’t worth the engagement.

Engaging in conflict isn’t necessarily a negative thing. Nor is it a bad thing, since it is good to have opinions. But the ones who stand their ground quickly, overtly, and vocally can give conflict a bad name.

With that said, know this:

“Most people approach a conflict with an egoistic view and they believe that they have to win. But unfortunately, this is a mistake”

Conflict Clarity

The first thing to keep in mind is that it is okay to be in a conflict. But you need to be able to handle escalating conflict in the right way. Going into a conflict with the mindset that “I have to find a win-win situation for both parties” always results in a good outcome because your intention is right.

By doing this, you have set a goal for a win-win scenario.

So the question now is “How does one find what is that win-win outcome?” Well, the answer comes when one finds the way to be able to step into the opponent’s shoes and try to think like they do. Or the next best situation is to try to figure out why the opponent is acting in a certain way; or, what is it that they are looking to resolve in the conflicting situation.

Finding Resolution

Working outside on ones own’s perceptions and launching into the realm of solutions obtainable by both parties is the key to figuring out a win-win outcome. Once you have analyzed the situation from both your perspective as well as the opponents’ perspective, you will certainly think of a win-win outcome.

Be open when resolving a conflict with the other party; this is the key to a successful resolution!

The Responsible Decision

Once you have made the (oftentimes uncomfortable) decision to yield your own will to that of a higher position of an empathetic outcome, you will find yourself in fresh territory that is void of negative dissonance. You will find that is easier to “compromise” and bury the hatchet with you “enemy.”

You are now ready to discuss the win-win outcome with the  previously called “opponent.”

When the other party hears what you have to say as it is couched in empathetic, honorable terms, they will automatically soften their tone and perspective and will be willing to work with you. Note that the final outcome may or may not be different from what you suggested, but as long as it is a win-win, you should be able to accept it.

Negotiating For Gold

This means that when you are negotiating a win-win outcome with the other party, that you need to be open-minded about it. You don’t want to appear rigid and have an obstinate mindset that appears that you are thinking what you suggested is the best, and the ONLY, possible outcome.

Practice Makes Perfect

Now don’t just think that now you have read this brief article and you now know what to do to be  perfect negotiator or ambassador of conflict resolution. You will not learn these easily-noted-yet-hard-to-replicate lessons until you practice them yourself.

So, the next time you see a conflict in the workplace or at home:

  1. Don’t flee it!
  2. Don’t be afraid to tackle it!
  3. Instead,  go for a concise and honorable resolution!

You will see that once you have handled it, how easy it feels and how accomplished you will feel coming out of the conflict.


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Aditi Chopra is an experienced leader in the software industry
She is a consultant, writer and a leader
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Image Sources: natcom.org

L2L Contributing Author


  1. Eleather B. on August 8, 2011 at 10:02 am

    I really appreciated reading this because it is a great reminder that business is about relationships between individuals. The way we manage these relationships, professionally and personally, will afford success in accomplishing what we desire. I have found through my experience that being empathetic or seeing a situation from the perspective of the other person has fostered greater communication, clearer understanding, and achieved results. Of course, it is not always resulted in the specific outcome either of us wanted, but we were able to make the best possible progress for success. Although working to manage or resolve conflict doesn’t always get the results we hope for, I have found that it does keep the possibilities for working together with someone in the future more favorable.

    • Aditi Chopra on August 9, 2011 at 7:12 am

      Thanks for your comment. I agree with you, being empathetic is a great leadership quality.

  2. Pat Bird on August 8, 2011 at 11:46 am

    I agree that practice is the only way to become more skilled at handling both the conflicts that we ourselves are involved in and those that we, as leaders, are motivated to resolve. I have found Relationship Awareness Theory and the associated Strength Deployment Inventory very helpful in understanding how I contribute to situations and how my strengths are helpful – until I start to overplay them and they become weaknesses.

    Those interested in learning more about their own contributions to the dynamics of a situation (conflicted or harmonious) can go to http://www.typetalk.com/Articles/SDI-Handout_Final.pdf and http://www.personalstrengths.us/index.php/en/sdi/about-sdi-an-overview to learn more.


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  4. Anil on September 11, 2011 at 7:27 pm


    Great article. Often times it is hard for people to engage in conflict because they have lingering bad memories about conflict as a child or young adult. I have actually learned that conflict can be GREAT on a team or relationship. It is the source of good ideas and creativity. Not the yelling, hitting kind of conflict we see in politics lately. It is the thoughtful conversation by two adults committed to solving a problems but coming from two different points of view.

    • Aditi Chopra on September 12, 2011 at 10:51 am

      Thanks Anil for your comments. Absolutely, two different view points can sometime create better results.

  5. satyajit on August 25, 2012 at 3:15 am

    A great read. Nicely explained the importance of relationship at the workplace. More often we’ve realized when the personal bonding is stronger at the workplace, lot of conflicts get resolved, rather some conflicts die before they are born.

    • Aditi Chopra on August 25, 2012 at 2:18 pm

      Glad you liked it!

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