What Causes Conflict: Introduction

04.09.2020 |

Episode #1 of the course Confident conflict management by Martin Probst


Welcome to the course.

I am Martin Probst, the Chief Education Officer at PROfound Leadership and author of many leadership books, blogs, and articles. My mission is to help you empower yourself with leadership skills so you can lead with confidence and positively impact the people around you through your actions and authentic leadership style.

Over the next ten days, you will learn how to positively and swiftly deal with conflict by learning what causes conflict, how to identify and handle conflict, how to resolve conflict, and ultimately how to prevent conflict.

Today, we will start with an introduction to what the underlying causes of most conflicts and misunderstandings are because positive relationships and a safe environment are not only essential for your success but equally important for your health and wellbeing. A range of conflicts can easily interrupt all of this. Here is the upside: this course will provide you with well-tested strategies you can learn to apply so that conflicts can be identified, dealt with, and resolved quickly.

In medieval times, conflicts were resolved by storming each other’s castles. Stormers used catapults, battering rams, and arrows. Stormers used moats, raised drawbridges, and boiling oil. Fortunately, we came a long way since then, but just like back then, emotions during conflict situations are still running high, and there are unfortunately many casualties. Thankfully, we now know that “conflict” is nothing else but a difference of values, wants, needs, or expectations.

To manage conflict with confidence, a deep understanding of what is really driving conflict, and how to achieve positive outcomes when dealing with internal and external stakeholders is required.


What Causes Conflict

Today’s world is a place of diversity. People with many differences live and work within the same environment and as a result, conflicts are unavoidable. We need to understand that human beings are very complex creatures and, as mentioned before, conflicts and stress are mainly caused by differences in:

• values

• wants

• needs

• expectations

• misunderstandings

Misunderstandings occur when we incorrectly interpret a situation (external event / the world outside of us) in a negative way. For example, somebody is tense and short with you at work, when you ask the person a question (external event). You may choose to interpret the event and give it the meaning of “The person doesn’t like me, what have I done wrong? Why does nobody like me?”

What we possibly delete in this simple scenario is that the person we asked is very busy and pressured by tight deadlines. We then distorted the event by questioning ourselves, although the situation had nothing to do with us. And we determined that nobody likes us which is a generalization and our own conclusion (more details on this in tomorrow’s lesson).

This can create a feeling of confusion, uncertainty, low self-esteem, blame, tension, and even anger towards the other person or the entire team. And your state (psychology and physiology) affects your behavior in a very negative way. This then creates your response, which is your behavior. And if you are in this negative state, it will certainly intensify the conflict.

Understanding our thoughts, emotions and behaviors empowers us in our dealings with others. We must make sure that we create awareness around our behaviors, so that we can be among the confident, successful leaders who are aware of their thought processes; unsuccessful people fall consistently victim to their own negative thoughts, and this course will step by step help you to avoid these pitfalls.

“We cannot solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” —Albert Einstein

My top tip for the day: Pay close attention to those moments when you automatically assume something or interpret a situation simply based on previous experiences. Creating awareness is a first step in confidently managing conflict.

Tomorrow, we will take a closer look at how we operate which will give you an even more in-depth understanding of the causes of conflict.

“Dare to make a difference!”



Recommended reading

What Do You Do When Your Diversity Efforts Lead To Greater Conflict?


Recommended book

Interpersonal Conflict by Joyce L. Hocker and William W. Wilmot


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