Conflict Management or Conflict Avoidance?

Juliette Smith Advice, Business, Communication, Conflict, Couples, Other Relationships Leave a Comment

Conflict management can reap many benefits.

Conflict itself is often seen as a source of tension and stress and something to be feared and avoided, but it can be an opportunity for improved self-awareness, growth and understanding. In business, high-achievers will identify conflict management as the chance to draw on their creative resources and to set a new way of thinking. In personal relationships, healthy conflict can be the gateway to new connection and intimacy.

The idea of conflict means different things to us all. To some it might be something to be avoided if it is bound tightly to painful childhood memories and to others it could be an opportunity to get one’s own way, regardless of the cost. And yet with the right mind-set, it is a dynamic that can be managed successfully and reap many benefits, whether it’s in the workplace or at home.

Throughout my 16 years of coaching, my most successful and stress-free clients have been those who have learned to approach conflict without fear or an attachment to being right. Instead they approach it with positivity, flexibility and an inclination towards a win/win outcome. Conflict brings up the need to question or challenge the status quo which can take courage, and amongst the many benefits is the opportunity for real growth and change. It takes courage to consider one’s own role in a disagreement and to focus on creating a healthy interaction.

Those who have a grasp of the skills needed to turn what could be unarmed combat, into healthy conflict can generally also see the opportunities to strengthen relationships, maximise the likelihood of a creative outcome and feel more fulfilled.


Through my coaching, most of my clients leave with a heightened self-awareness, ie an increased ability to notice their own thought patterns and an intention to change those thoughts and behaviours that are not helpful.

Approaching a conversation with an assumption that it will be difficult, is likely to evoke a negative emotional reaction in an individual which could put a positive outcome at risk before the interaction even begins. I teach my clients to create a vision of their interaction being one of ease, leading to the desired successful outcome. This means they go into an interaction with less fear and more confidence.

If you often have negative thoughts about a conversation, a meeting or even a specific person, try this and see how your feelings change and thus your behaviour.

We all make judgements and assumptions about other people but often fail to notice how negative they can be. My more successful clients, both personal and business, are prepared to look at themselves and challenge their own judgements, replacing them with open-mindedness and a willingness to listen and learn.

Hold on to clarity of intention

Many a time I’ve seen new clients so attached to winning an argument or getting their own way, they lose sight of the other person, the relationship or the bigger picture.  Underneath, their desire is often to nurture and develop the relationship, so I teach them to actively seek a more creative approach to a challenging situation.  The desire to find a better solution opens up so many new possibilities.

Look for common ground and shared values

When two impassioned people are communicating, more often than not, there are shared values and often even a shared goal.  Discovering this common ground provides a solid base for connection. The most inspiring leaders and partners generally foster a shared commitment to finding a solution as well as searching for and acknowledging common ground to come back to, if things get tough.

Being curious and listening

Conflict can be transformed when at least one party seeks to find out more and to understand by asking questions – neutral questions of genuine curiosity, not demands for justification!  By making sure we understand what the other person really wants, needs and feels, we can show empathy which creates connection rather than conflict.  Considering the possibilities another point of view can create, and how these ideas could be valuable, puts all parties in a position of strength.  Those who enjoy the most fulfilling intimate relationships will enjoy learning about the differences between them and their partner and seeking out the opportunities those differences offer for growth and more connection.

Getting emotional

We have all been there – that moment when we need to take a deep breath before responding to a person or a situation. If you are able to manage your own emotions, it makes it easier to listen to understand and thus to empathise. Moving away from criticism, accusations and blame and towards solving the problem is what works – It’s another way of creating connection rather than separation.

My aim is to have my clients leave our relationship more self-aware and prepared to leave unhealthy conflict behind in service of a more positive outcome for everyone involved. Owning their own reactions and having a commitment to honest, effective communication transforms their view of conflict from being a source of tension and stress to an opportunity for creativity and connection.

Coaching can help

If you would like to learn more about how coaching can help you manage conflict more effectively, in any relationship, please call me on 0800 612 8416, or find out more here.


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