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Partnership Pitfall #10: Unresolved conflict

Since coalition work involves working with people, there will always be conflict. 🙂 Conflict can be helpful, healthy and can aid the coalition in making better collective decisions. Unresolved conflict can be very destructive to a coalition and can erode trust and engagement. Conflict may be related to coalition decision-making, priority setting or among member relationships. If no one is willing to talk openly about the conflict, you likely have unresolved conflict (a.k.a. the elephant in the room). As difficult as it can be to address conflict, as coalition leaders, it is essential if you are going to be able to make an impact by working together rather than working independently. Join me this week as I provide three recommendations on how to start to overcome our final Partnership Pitfall #10, unresolved conflict.

  1. Be honest about the conflict. Acknowledge that there is conflict about a particular topic, decision or approach. Admit that the topic or decision is difficult, that there are different perspectives and that you want to find a way to work together even if not everyone agrees. 
  2. Listen to different perspectives. You may or may not agree with everyone in your coalition, but if you are going to address unresolved conflict, it is essential that you are willing to listen to different perspectives. Be humble. Attempt to understand the context and find ways to facilitate the conversation so that you can address the conflict as positively and productively as possible. Depending upon the situation and the depth of the conflict, you may want to bring in an external facilitator. 
  3. Address the conflict. Once you have listened to different perspectives and have a good understanding of the conflict, consider how to address the conflict without blaming others. You usually need to spend time in between the “listening” and the “addressing” stage. While we often want to move out of the discomfort of conflict, in order to identify the best “win-win” solution (if possible) and address the conflict productively, we have to allow time for reflection and consideration. 

While conflict is never easy and some of us avoid it more than others (yes, I’m raising my hand here :), one of the most important things we can do as coalition leaders is to address conflict rather than leave it unresolved. This can apply to our family and friend relationships too!

So what can you do this week to begin to overcome the 10th Partnership Pitfall, unresolved conflict? 

If you haven’t yet downloaded my current worksheet, Overcoming 10 Partnership Pitfalls, click here!

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Photo by Frank Busch on Unsplash

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