Opportunity Lost: The Cost of Avoidance

Amelia Chan

I have been in many intense conversations at work. As a HR professional, I help managers with their people issues every day. Sometimes emotions run high and can lead to conflict. However, it is possible to diffuse the intensity, redirect the energy, and finish in a better place. Being able to respectfully disagree is an important business skill that all leaders should practice if they want to elevate their effectiveness.

Conflict is uncomfortable. Not surprisingly, some people will avoid any type of disagreement or confrontation at all costs. Instead of addressing something at its earliest stages, they leave it until the issue festers into a misunderstanding which then takes on a life of its own. Ironically, this often leads to much greater conflict than in the beginning and that which started the cycle in the first place.

Disagreements are evitable but they are opportunities to cultivate personal empowerment and strengthen relationships. Being able to disagree respectfully is a healthy way to ensure communication channels remain open. This also helps to forge a bond or connection if handled properly. After all, the strongest relationships are multi-faceted, have depth, and longevity. Even for short-term exchanges, maintaining control demonstrates integrity and worth.

Humans have active imaginations and can spin complicated stories based on assumptions. These narratives created within our minds are a combination of personal backstory and previous experiences. If we let them, the stories we tell ourselves really wind us up into knots and set the tone for our success or failure, even before we go into a scenario. This leads to creating a self-fulfilling prophecy to confirm which prevents objectivity and openness from the start. Being able to manage conflict in a productive way helps us handle disagreements in our lives and in our work relationships.

Some of the biggest struggles we face stem from not having the confidence to express ourselves properly. This is exasperated by internal judgement, possible criticism, and anticipated rejection. Instead of trying to engage in genuine discussions with open dialogue, this type of approach leads to unsatisfyingly shallow exchanges. In the effort to appear amenable and likeable, some people choose to avoid contentious subjects altogether. Taken to the extreme, badly handled conflict leads to disappointing results and detrimental situations.

Social media and the court of public opinion have exposed us to how the world at large can take something small and escalate it into blanket cancellations. It is no wonder that with this all-or-nothing attitude where you must be “with or against us” mentality, people are scared to be honest, thinking they will offend or provoke. Unfortunately, unhealthy disagreements are too common, and these public shaming scenarios we witness reinforces our fears about how hard they are to deal with. While avoidance may be considered self-preservation by some, this type of behaviour is very short-sighted.

While it isn’t always intuitive at first, being charming and persuasive is a skill that can be practiced and honed. With a little effort, it is possible to charmingly disagree and still cultivate good relations with others.

To learn how to disarm with charm, read on…

Are you ready to take the first step towards sharpening your conflict resolution skills?

with our Training team. We can help you to turn every disagreement and conflict into an opportunity for growth.

Another version of this article has been published at PeopleTalk Magazine: https://www.peopletalkmagazine-digital.com/hrbq/0221_summer_2021/MobilePagedArticle.action?articleId=1700693#articleId1700693