The typical American workplace is often rife with clashing egos, ideas, and agendas. Some of us look for opportunities to assert our authority and opinions with gusto, while others duck and cover at the slightest hint of controversy. But how we handle the conflict inherent in our work lives says a lot about us, and whether we really have to the tools and disposition to lead others.

Whether an argument arises because of an interpersonal issue, or a disagreement on how to solve a business problem, the culprit of unproductive conflict is usually the same: unchecked emotion. Emotions in business are not wrong in and of themselves–they are completely natural, and can even be used to demonstrate essential leadership qualities, like passion and enthusiasm!  But when we choose a response that produces fear, anger, or shame, productivity is demolished.

Our results in the workplace are improved dramatically when we understand the truth about conflict–it can be used to make our relationships and organizations stronger. Much the way a muscle has to first be broken down in order to grow, managing conflict appropriately can, over time, strengthen relationships and increase trust.

Here are three principles for converting conflict into trust, right from Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends & Influence People:

  1. “Show respect for the other person’s opinion. Never say, ‘You’re wrong.'”

  2. “Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.”

  3. “If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.”

These simple changes in mindset (and aligning our words and actions with this mindset) produce a shift in work relationships that, with consistent practice, increase both productivity and workplace satisfaction.

Download Dale Carnegie’s latest white paper on “Recognizing Leadership Blind Spots.”

Posted by MaryAnn Means-Dufrene

As Market President for Dale Carnegie North Texas, MaryAnn partners with organizations and individuals to build leadership capacity necessary for breakthrough performance. Through strategic partnerships, she creates customized skill development plans to increase employee engagement, boost individual and team productivity, and develop the kind of leaders people actually want to follow. MaryAnn has tremendous experience in collaborating with organizations in Tarrant County, previously serving as Executive Director of Susan G. Komen Greater Fort Worth and as Deputy Chief of Staff to Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price. She is a graduate of Texas A&M University with a degree in psychology and earned her Master of Public Administration and Master of Strategic Human Resource Management degrees from the University of Texas at Arlington. She is board chair for Presbyterian Night Shelter, board vice president for Girls Inc of Tarrant County, and serves on the board of directors of Women's Policy Forum and the Central Area Council for the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce. MaryAnn lives with her husband Matt, son Hogan, and two dogs Deuce and Lovey in Fort Worth, Texas.

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