Conflict Can Build Trust

Conflict Can Build Trust

Can conflict really build trust in people and teams? Absolutely. In fact, I would say that one of the best indicators of a team that trusts each other is the amount of conflict in the team. 

When I share this with people, often they get confused. Isn’t conflict a bad thing? In many instances, yes, but not always. Positive, healthy conflict happens when we can challenge each other in real ways, be open and honest, and actually collaborate more effectively. (Note – don’t actually point fingers and yell at people like the picture above)

Disagreements are Okay

The best teams I’ve ever worked on are teams that people felt safe to disagree and challenge others. Doing so, and keeping the environment positive helped build trust as we learned how to work through issues together. 

This is a difficult concept for me to embrace because I’m naturally conflict-averse. I don’t typically enjoy challenging others – it’s easier to be agreeable.

But doing that is not actually helpful.

It’s always better for my relationships to create an environment where it is safe to disagree. We can work through the issue, talk about the problem, evaluate root cause, etc. Then, when we make a decision together, we can be united and commit to it together.

What’s the alternative? Disagreeing but not saying anything about it, which leads people to go off, grumble to themselves and others, and create rifts in the team. Be open, honest, and share what you feel. Do it because it’s better for the team and organization, not just because it’s what you want.

How You React Matters

If we are to build trusting cultures and relationships, how we react when people disagree or bring up challenges matters a lot. Creating a safe environment where people feel safe to disagree without being reprimanded or harassed is critical. In fact, you should completely acknowledge and consider the differing opinion. 

It’s up to the leader to do that – lead – in this reaction. In fact, effective leaders should be seeking out and asking for ideas and opinions that are different from theirs. This reminds me of a great quote from Simon Sinek:

“Bad leaders care about who is right. Good leaders care about what is right.”

Get your ego out of the way and look for the right answer rather than trying to be personally right all the time. You’ll be surprised by how much more honest and trusting your team will be if you do.

I recently recorded a video on LinkedIn about this topic – check it out here!

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