None of us sets out to create conflict with others. Most of us truly dislike conflict and will go to great lengths to avoid it. However, it is also true that we can contribute to conflict unintentionally through our attitudes, responses and words. Being aware of these issues can help us do a better job of lessoning or avoiding unnecessary conflict.
Our responses and conflict
A significant contributor to conflict and misunderstanding can come from our responses to others. For instance, if someone makes a suggestion, offers a differing opinion or even takes a shot at us, a defensive reaction will contribute to ratcheting up conflict in the relationship. Contrast that with an open response like "Tell me more about why you think that?" which invites response and dialogue rather than shutting it down.
Other responses like anger or impatience will have the same negative effect so learning to control our emotions and responses with people who irritate or words that irritate is a key to lowering the possibility of conflict or misunderstanding. Staying calm, collected, friendly and approachable in the face of people or situations that punch our buttons lowers the temperature. When we don't control our responses we invariably raise the temperature.
Our attitudes and conflict
More subtle than our actual responses to others is that of our attitude toward others who challenge us. If I have a dismissive, impatient, disrespectful, angry, haughty or irritated attitude with those interacting to me (justified or not) it raises the temperature.
Early in my leadership life I was not very skilled in hiding or controlling my responses and it hurt me with others. It was unintentional but it caused issues nonetheless. It really comes down to treating all people and ideas with respect whether those ideas will fly or not fly. If our attitude is always one of respect we will respond well to people regardless of the merits of their ideas or even sometimes poor attitudes.
Our words and conflict
We are stewards of our words. They can build relationships or destroy them. They can raise the level of conflict or lower it. They can encourage or discourage. The diplomacy of our words and the respect we show others makes all the difference.
I intentionally placed this after our responses and our attitudes because harmful words come from uncontrolled responses and poor attitudes toward others. And those harmful words create misunderstanding and conflict.
Learning to control our words is a learned discipline. I have been known to silently say to myself "KMS" numerous times when I am with people who push my buttons. It stands for "Keep Mouth Shut." It is a reminder that my words are going to matter so think about what I am going to say and how I am going to say it before responding.
When misunderstanding and conflict occurs we ought to ask ourselves whether we contributed to it through our responses, attitudes or words and become aware of how all three can contribute to conflict or lower the temperature.