Authentic Leadership Expert Dov Baron’s 5 Sanity Hacks For Overcoming Your Fear of Conflict

The bad news: Leadership includes conflict!

To be a great leader you must become a C.R.O (Chief Relationship Officer) and that means becoming a master of conflict resolution. (However, that conflict doesn’t have to be nasty)

It is estimated that conflict in the workplace cost US employers over a billion dollars every year. Therefore, with the right training, it’s the single most preventable cause of lost revenue.

However, there is an even higher cost of avoiding conflict in that your people will be walking around carrying resentment and frustration that keeps them walled off. These walls will in turn crush both innovation and morale, not only in that individual but everyone they work with. Your corporate culture is the life blood of your organization and not dealing with conflict will turn that blood toxic.

Bottom line: you and your organization cannot afford unhealthy conflict or for that matter the equally unhealthy avoidance of conflict.

Despite what we may have believed; when you look back over your life, you know as well as I do: Fear of conflict ends up being far more destructive than actually dealing with conflict. Because, what we don’t deal with not only eats at us, it eats away at our relationships.

Whether we like it or not; conflict is a part of life, therefore unavoidable. However, whether we deal with it in an unhealthy and destructive, or healthy and empowering way is our choice.

You and I, no matter how put together we like to appear, will experience feelings of frustration and anger. Dealing with that frustration and anger means dealing with conflict and for many people even the idea of conflict can trigger a cold sweat, dry mouth and the desire to take up running….in the other direction.

Maybe you are wondering what you can do to overcome your fear of conflict?

Here are 5 simple steps for over coming your fear of conflict:

1. Own Your Humanity!

Admit to yourself and everyone you deal with that you are not perfect, therefore because you are human certain things just get under your skin and even piss you off. All too often we want to repress our frustration in order to protect our image. Here’s the news: No one trusts a person who is perpetually calm. If you are always holding the image of calm, cool and collected I can assure you that behind your back people are waiting for the moment when you explode.

2. Recognize that It’s Not Personal

I know there are some nasty folks out there however, the fact is, most people are not outright vindictive. Therefore, whatever it is that they did/said to or about you, there’s a very good chance that it wasn’t personal. In all likelihood whatever it was that they did was done out of a reaction to something that has at best very little to do with you, (also known as their own crap projected onto you)

3. Like Your Momma Taught You; “Take a Breath and Count to 10.”

Do your best to not be reactive, is easier said than done. So, when you feel your frustration and anger bubbling up, let it out…but in a non-violent way. Take some time out and write in your journal. By write in your journal I mean puck out every nasty venomous thought or fantasy onto paper. That way when you feel upset and a desire to just lash out, or for that matter stuff it down so deep we can tell yourself it doesn’t exist, you have an impotent release. Giving yourself permission to write out all of those venomous things that are recycling in your mind out will create the mental space for you to move on. Better on paper than in your head (or in the ears of another). You can take it one step further and light that paper on fire to watch those venomous things burn away to ash.

4. Not Every Behavior Represents The Person… Be a Good Parent!

Imagine that your child does something that upsets you. You can be a “bad parent” and tell your child that “they” are bad. Or you can be a “good parent” and point out what’s good/great about your child, while being clear that you find a particular behavior unacceptable.

Despite the fact that we may briefly feel better by venting our venom, there’s a pretty good chance that the cost of that momentary relief will be very high.

Try this far more emotionally intelligent response: Start your communication with one or two things you like about this person, “You are so great at dealing with… however, I’m really struggling to understand why you would do/say… , I would like to understand what is/was going on for you. Can we talk about it, and see if we can come up with a mutually beneficial solution?” Directing your frustration at the behavior rather than the individual helps reduce the other persons need to be defensive, and creates the space for authentic accountability.

Last but not least…

5. Know Thy Self!

As stated it’s not personal! What that means here is, if you are taking “it” personally, there’s something for you to self-examine. What is it about what this person said or did that reminds you of something from your own history that still needs to be resolved.

Self-knowledge is the foundation of Full Monty Leadership and true Emotional Intelligence. With increased levels of self-knowledge you are much less likely to be triggered. Furthermore, developing a corporate culture that encourages self knowledge and self-awareness (which my 34 Strong Friends are very focused on improving on strengths) is another powerful way to create a team who are tightly bonded.

Okay, time for action!  Take out a note pad and write down 3 or 4 people that you are carrying frustration about. Pick the one you think it would be easiest to walk through these 5 steps with, and go do it!  Having dealt with the first, your confidence will grow enough to deal with the next and so on.

I trust that you found this valuable if so feel free to send this to your friends. 

Brandon Miller is the CEO of 34 Strong Inc. a leader in StrengthsFinder ® training and organizational development. 34 Strong works with organizations across the United States in developing teams around talent to optimize performance and maximize results. Brandon specializes in working with organizations on developing sustainable strengths-based organizational culture. Brandon’s top five strengths are: Maximizer, Achiever, Activator, Strategic, and Arranger.

(Modified for this Blog post, Originally Published at: