I think we can agree that conflict doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In fact, we learn more about an issue and often identify better solutions when we engage in productive conflict. Better conflict = Better outcome!

Our goal during conflict should be to produce the best possible solution in the shortest period of time without any collateral damage. Passionate debate – Good. Productive ideological conflict – Good. Presentation of facts and evidence – Really good. Destructive fighting – Bad. Personality-focused – Bad. Mean-spirited attacks – Really bad.

Like any new skill, growing productive conflict muscles takes practice. And as with any improvement, we begin with an assessment of the current state. Helping a team master conflict requires a hearty look in the mirror, reflecting on team conflict skills and individual conflict skills.

Think about it: What’s your personal go-to conflict response? Do you like to argue and overpower? Do you automatically cave in? Do you exaggerate your viewpoint for emphasis to get your way? Do you play the victim and blame someone else for the situation – “It’s all their fault.”? Maybe you prefer a more passive-aggressive approach – “Fine. Whatever.”? Or maybe you withdraw, avoiding the conflict situation altogether?

With some reflection, we can recognize our go-to conflict responses and learn why we automatically use them. With some reframing and practice, we can identify healthier productive conflict behaviors to replace the go-to conflict responses. This can help in ALL of your relationships – at home, at work, and on the ball-field. Better conflict = Better outcome!

“All great relationships, the ones that last over time, require productive conflict in order to grow.” (Patrick Lencioni, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team) Lencioni says the single, most untapped competitive advantage is teamwork. Building on the foundation of vulnerability-based trust, individuals on a team can reframe their approach to conflict and the team can begin to engage in unfiltered, constructive debate of ideas and concepts. Better conflict = Better outcome!