Too often conflict arises in the workplace (and at home!) because of miscommunication, or more specifically, a lack of understanding of the other persons, and our own, communication style. It is not just the lack of understanding between people, it is also people’s unwillingness to change their own style, or unwillingness to be accommodating of someone else’s style.

Here is just one example of how conflict can easily arise…Consider a situation where a manager asks two of their staff to work on a job together. One of those staff members likes to think through their ideas in their own time and in their own space. They like to think before they speak. We probably all know someone like this – the quiet person, but when they do talk they bust out some pearls of wisdom.

The other staff member loves to brainstorm and talk to help them come up with ideas or solutions. The process of speaking activates their thinking. I am sure we have all come across this person as well – they quickly start expressing a certain idea, but by the time they finish talking they can be expressing an idea that is opposite to where they started! So to others, it seems like this “talker” is constantly changing their mind. But that is not the case, they simply need to talk in order to think.

So we ask these people to problem solve together, and what do we get? Conflict. The quiet person gets frustrated by the constant talking and apparent inconstancy of the other, and the talker gets frustrated by the apparent slow thinking of the other. This frustration is small at first, but resentment between the two builds, resulting in a very slow rate of achievement.

So how can we view these differences as complementary so that they don’t lead to conflict?

Next post – we will consider how to help these two work together more effectively.