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Working through Conflict

Conflict can either break people and teams apart, or it can bring productivity and innovative solutions to move forward.

The types of conflict that break people and teams apart are the interpersonal conflicts that occur. However, cognitive conflict is the disagreement about approaches and ideas. If the team recognizes and understands the types of conflict, it can be a resource to nurture productivity.

Building teams and building trust

The most constructive ways to deal with conflict is to use great communication skills, and connect with others to build trust and stronger relationships. By paraphrasing and asking questions, the issues stay separated from the person.

Communication skills

Shelee King George & me 2010
I once heard Shelee King George explain communication skills in an analogy of a phone call and call waiting:
When we are listeners, we have three inhibitors that get in the way, so we need to put them on call waiting:
1) Autobiographical Listener (the ME TOO listener), who is constantly thinking of their own story, while it would be better to focus on the other person;

2) Solution Listener (the Mr./Mrs. Fix It Person), who offers solutions, however it would be better to paraphrase first then ask questions;

3) Inquisitive Listener (has personal questions that are unrelated to the topic), this person is easily distracted, therefore needs to work on focusing on the message of the other person.

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Shelee then reminded me that paraphrasing serves two purposes: 
  1. For myself, to clarify and summarize in my head what I heard, then usually clarifying questions follow.
  2. Paraphrase for the speaker, to help the speaker summarize his/her thoughts. This is followed by probing questions for the speaker to help shift the conversation to where I want it to go, or to move it on.

We often fall into one of the three categories, so it's important to know which one is my own inhibitor, and to work towards being a better listener and communicator. By working on these skills, it helps foster trust, clarity, and it can keep differences in opinions focused on the issues rather than becoming interpersonal conflicts that separates teams. 

I'd like to hear from you:
  • How do you build trust and build your team?
  • How do you identify the types of conflict? 
  • How do you turn conflict into productivity?
The word cloud was created on Tagul, with the descriptions from my Year 1 Collaboration Coaches on how to build a team.


  1. Building trust and team takes time and is something that only takes one little situation to break down. John Maxwell says that building trust first takes a leader with self-confidence, then build trust by being respectful, dependable, and speak truthfully. Being consistent with all of the above is very important in my opinion with building relationships that can form a strong team. When trust is earned between team members, working through conflicts can make the team stronger as you stated. If trust is lost, conflict can break down the team and re-building can be difficult, but not impossible. Keep the lines of communication open and remember that trust will need to be earned again. Great post Tracy, enjoyed it!

    1. Thanks JC, for the encouragement and insightful comment. That is so true about it taking time to build trust and the relationship, but it only takes one thing to break it down. I do appreciate your reminder of rebuilding the relationship being possible.



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