Rabble-rouser or runner? How you feel about conflict affects how you resolve it.

Photo Credit: David Compton Flickr via Compfight cc


When you hear the word conflict how do you feel? I often ask this question in workshops I lead simply because how we feel about conflict completely affects how we do (or don’t) resolve it (regardless of what the conflict is about).


It’s fascinating to see the extremely wide variety of responses to how people feel about conflict – from ‘I’m a rabble-rouser / I adore conflict’ to ‘it makes me want to run away with every fibre of my being’ & everything in between. Recently I was delivering a team building workshop with staff who work to bring stability to Somalia & I asked them how they felt about conflict. Because their work puts them in physical danger, responses ranged from death & displacement to intriguing & complex.


I asked you to let me know how you felt about conflict & 65 of you replied via this link (it’s not too late- you can still reply if you haven’t already).



Curious to see how everyone replied how they felt about conflict?


Here are your responses in a word cloud (word clouds analyze text by frequency; the larger the text the more frequent the response & the smaller the text the less frequent the response).



What do you think? Can you see your response?


It’s worth noting that the difference between feeling anxious / destruction or displacement & opportunity / interested or healthy is a wide chasm.


It demonstrates how people experience conflict matters, regardless of the content of the conflict.


If you’re someone who conflict provokes high anxiety & you’re trying to resolve a conflict with a colleague who sees conflict as a terrific opportunity, that is worth noting.


Conversely if you’re known as a rabble-rouser & you love to debate & you’re trying to address a conflict with someone who feels nothing but dread & fear, that’s certainly an issue.



Why stopping to take into consideration how you & the person you’re in conflict with feels about conflict leads to better resolutions


The next time you have conflict brewing, take a moment to reflect on how you feel about conflict. Then take a moment to ask the person (or persons) how they feel about the conflict.


It’s is a critical step in getting to resolution because it doesn’t assume we all feel the same way.


Taking the time to discover means you’re showing the other person that it’s important to you & you can use that information to craft a better conflict resolution process.


For example, imagine you’re a rabble-rouser – aka you love conflict; you adore debating & may even take the opposite view of what you believe to be mischievous.


Now imagine you have a conflict with someone who’s every instinct says ‘run’ at the mere mention of conflict. Perhaps they’re a survivor of gender-based violence or perhaps conflict meant getting hit as a kid.


No matter what the conflict is about between the two of you, it’s going to be a rough road to resolution.


Here are some options for moving forward


First off don’t try to resolve the conflict. Focus on the process first – the ‘how’ of moving forward.


Here are some suggestions:


Setting the scene: ‘I know we have some conflict to work out but before we work on how we’re going to resolve it ….”


Possible prompts:

  • What do you think is the best way forward?
  • How are you feeling about the situation?
  • What can I do to make it comfortable for us to figure out a resolution?


So whether you’re a rabble-rouser & love to provoke debate or run at the mere mention of conflict or are somewhere in between, the next time a conflict raises her head:


  1. Think about how you feel about conflict
  2. Think about how the other person feels about conflict (& ask if you don’t know)
  3. Use this information to craft a better, more tailored fit conflict resolution process


Your turn. Take action


Jana replied to a recent post on conflict resolution saying:


Just a quick note to let you know how much I enjoyed this post and the two step suggestion on conflict resolution as well. It is an art and these simple tools are invaluable – just need to remember to breathe, think and then speak… in times they are necessary (minus road ranting of course.) Jana



  • Go against your instinct. The next time you’re faced with a conflict, remember don’t try to resolve it right away. Instead, focus on the process first – the ‘how’ of moving forward.





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