“Can’t we all just get along?”  This simple, poignant plea was courageously communicated by Rodney King as he sought social reconciliation from the massive violence and riots that erupted in the streets of Los Angeles.  This tragic episode followed a brutal collision between Rodney King and the LA police in 1992.  It’s a plea that needs to be echoed over and over again in today’s national and global political climates.  It needs to resonate in our corporate offices, in our community organizations, and even within our own family dynamics.

As Max Lucado states, “conflict is inevitable, combat is optional.”

Conflict can be a healthy, transformative energy in any organization, if managed wisely.  In the midst of divergent opinions, if all parties commit to open, honest, mutually respectful dialog, perspectives are organically broadened, and amicable resolutions are likely to be reached.

Reversely, conflict can lead to devastating perils if managed callously.  When conflict is allowed to escalate, triggered by a barrage of back and forth judging, blaming, and complaining, a catastrophic organizational breakdown will likely ensue, causing untold negative consequences for all parties involved.

Some form of conflict is a normal part of our personal and professional lives.  When faced with conflict, what path do you choose…. Avoidance?  Aggressiveness?  Or Assertiveness?

If you typically avoid conflict for the sake of pleasing others or for the appearance of peace, you’re setting the stage for pervasive, long-term damage.  Side-stepping crucial conversations, ignoring underlying tensions, or taking a dismissive approach to red-flag situations are dangerous practices.

If you typically confront conflict with aggressive tactics, such as shouting,  finger-pointing, hostile tones, or worse….you’ve become part of the problem, not part of the solution.  This impulsive reaction may even point to your own character flaw….as they say, the more incompetent we feel, the more eager we are to fight.

The wise approach to conflict resolution is to respond assertively and proactively.  This tactic requires courage, mindfulness, openness, and a high degree of empathy for the other person’s perspective.  Taking this win-win approach empowers all parties to evolve and transform, leading to mutual trust, greater productivity, and elevated mindsets.

Conflict can create space for transformation, innovation, and growth; or it can imprison us into a cage of rage, pain and fear.  The choice is yours to make.  May you choose wisely.