Conflict is a Choice Not a Habit

19 Oct

Conflict means that two parties have different needs. That’s it. So why isn’t it possible for people to ask to get their needs met? Dealing with conflict depends! It depends on what is at stake for you, what you stand for, the results you want, who it is with…I could go on and on.

And that is why conflict is so icky, complex, confusing, and juicy! There are many choices in dealing with conflict. Most of our conflict behaviors were learned at an early age and have become habits.

It may be in our nature to choose competition (I win you lose) because that is what we learn in school, in society, in the workplace, and many times in our families. Another autopilot response for some is Avoiding (I lose you lose). We may learn this choice from our family of origin, from a painful experience that has become implanted in our brain that protects us from further pain, or simply because we have learned that it just takes too much energy to take on the conflict. Those who choose Accommodating (I lose you win) think that it is better to acquiesce getting their needs met instead of getting into a conflict with anyone about it. Many choose Collaboration (I win you win). They have discovered that this choice builds trust with others. People often ask me what the difference is between Collaborating and Compromising. Collaborators always end up creating something better together than separately, and Compromisers end up with less than what they wanted.

The dilemma that occurs is that we may have a “go to” conflict style that has labeled us with others. If we compete all of the time, others will avoid us; if we avoid all of the time, others will ignore us; if we accommodate all of the time, we will get a reputation as a doormat; and if we collaborate all of the time we may get a reputation for never being able to make a decision.

So my message is to realize that you have a choice. Between whatever lands on you and how you deal with it is this expansive space full of freedom to choose. Be intentional in your choice.

Here are my ingredients for a successful conflict opportunity:


You must have a strong heart and fearlessness to enter into conflict. You need to ask to get your needs met, your values met, whatever you stand for.


This curiosity will free you from getting caught in “I am right and you are wrong.” It will keep you out of judgment and defensiveness. It will open up your mind and your heart to places you have never learned or felt before.


It is not all about you. There is another party involved in the conflict that has a different perspective and need than you. 


You do not know what someone else’s needs are unless you ask. In order to ask, you need to listen. Check out Katie Owens as she reminds you how to listen by clicking on