Like A Team

A Resource for Christian Leadership Development and Teamwork

Conflict Gets a Bad Reputation

Conflict Gets a Bad Reputation“Conflict gets a bad reputation because everyone thinks it’s bad. But the positive potential is nearly always there–especially on teams. Just as lake winds are harnessed to propel sailboats, teams can harness conflict to propel team progress and productivity. It all starts with understanding the genesis of most conflicts.

Most conflicts revolve around either personalities (”hot” conflict) or issues (“cool” conflict).  Just about any disagreement comes down to these two factors: what people feel (hot) versus what they think (cool).

Hot conflict 
centers on:

Cool conflict
centers on:







The past

The future





Rarely is there a direct way to solve conflict, since it involves both feelings and thoughts. (It’s hard to “order” someone to quit feeling or thinking a certain way!) But indirect processes have a high potential, and a psychologist isn’t necessary.

Picture yourself as the matador in a bullfight. He uses his cape to take the strength and fight out of the bull (which misperceives the cape as an extension of the matador’s body). The matador winds the bull by running it back and forth long enough to set up the sword coup de gras.

So it is with killing conflict, where the purpose is to take the wind out of the negative conflict process. The “cape” used for hot, personality-based conflict is shifting the focus away from feelings to the 3 Fs: Facts, Figures, and the Future. Cool off personalities and emotions by switching to a non-emotional thinking process.

Conflict-ridden team deliberations should “toggle” between these classic dualities of human behavior:

Feelings → Facts → Feelings → Facts

Other fancy cape-work also utilizes the mind-shift tactic:

We → Me →We → Me

Past → Future → Past → Future

When conflict gravitates around issues, wave the cape of feelings. Get people to talk about how they feel about the conflicting issues. After venting feelings, team members become more open-minded about alternative points of views, as well as productive compromise.”

Note: This article is an excerpt from VIRTUAL TEAMWORK: Building Your Own Professional Community of Productivity and Meaning, by Phil Van Auken

Who is Phil Van Auken?

Category: Phil Van Auken

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