Can Our Strengths Impact How We Deal With Conflict?

Anyone who has a presence on Facebook has seen a deluge of opinions regarding the recent election and subsequent inauguration. And while everyone has some sort of an opinion, it feels to me like opinions have begun to look a little more like right hooks. The gloves have not just come off; they have been ripped off and thrown across the room at one another’s heads before the main event even ensues.

Battles of political belief, religious thought and philosophical ideals have taken over. Rare now are the precious videos of dogs terrified of cats and squirrels stealing car keys.

Social media conflicts have turned from tenuous to downright vicious in many cases.

I have seen more “unfriending” than ever before, but more concerning to me are the out and out arguments negatively impacting what I assume were once friendships…at least Facebook friendships.

It’s a lot easier to be bold, and mean, via social media than live and in person.

I could write a novel on how I feel about social media and what it has done to society and our ability to communicate face to face, but for now, I just want to tackle the conflicts on social media. Now that we are here, how do we handle it? I mean, if the emoji to your post has a winky face, does that convey sarcasm? wit? flirtation?  Is the straight smile emoji on a response indicative of passive aggressiveness? What about the wine glass, does that mean they are drunk or they think you are?

I recently read a piece on how to avoid social media conflicts that was full of funny anecdotes and hilarious mishaps. What I also found there was a very basic point that sums it up for me: there really are NO winners in social media arguments…NO one looks good…EVERYONE looks bad…and the bitter feelings seem to last long after the app is closed.

So how do we avoid these conflicts? And if we find ourselves in one, how do we get out? How can we leverage our strengths to handle conflicts in general? And can we leverage them the same way if those conflicts are on social media?

Quite often we don’t know when conflict is afoot, we unintentionally may walk right into it (or in the case of Facebook, “reply” right into it). What we can do, however, is become prepared just in case; whether conflict occurs in the workplace, home, or even in a raging Facebook post. We need to be prepared with our strengths to address conflict in a healthy way before that inevitable unhealthy response rears its ugly head. As I look at my top strengths, I see how they can be both a blessing, and a curse, in those Facebook battles.

For example, my number one strength is Input. In a conflict, I can toss out those facts that I have been cataloguing in my brain for years. While that is a good thing to have in a conflict, taken to the extreme, I can become that person; the one that tosses out obnoxious facts, fairly certain that if I throw out enough facts people will automatically sway their opinion back my way. When in reality I am just being obnoxious and they aren’t going to budge for obnoxious.

You see, while I am tossing out my facts, I am essentially telling a Facebook friend that they are wrong and that’s all there is to it.

Now, if I were using a different one of my strengths, for example, Intellection – perhaps I would approach things differently. Don’t get me wrong, I would likely still toss out facts, attributing them to specific articles I have read – but it might be easier for me to actually listen to someone else’s argument, pay more attention to their facts.

I know it isn’t this easy, I know that “blood boiling” feeling we get at times, and how difficult it is to really understand ourselves and how we should deal with conflicts. Clearly the best way to avoid a Facebook conflict (any conflict for that matter) is to leave well enough alone and stay away from it. I think avoiding unnecessary conflicts is a pretty good idea. But if you do get roped in, if it is unavoidable, what do you do? Let’s face it; there really is no “one size fits all” way to handle them. They will all be different.

In the Gallup article, The Talent to Deal With Conflict, Brian Brim gives us some strategies to deal with conflict by utilizing our strengths. He teaches us how to use strengths more effectively and efficiently to get to the root of the issue and find resolution.

Bottom line, there are those that thrive in conflict, there are those that don’t – regardless, social media has changed the game and thrown a wrench into communication and conflict resolution – time to dust off that strengths list and get to work! As you take a look at your top 5 results, how might your strengths contribute to resolving conflicts? Is it through finding common ground? Is it through resetting the conversation by providing a much bigger picture allowing cooler heads to prevail? Also consider how your top 5 may contribute creating unnecessary conflict, or causing conflict to spiral. What are some of the behaviors that you may need to watchout for? Do you overly take ownership of things, that perhaps you shouldn’t? Perhaps your perspective and detail are far too wide for the situation at hand, or perhaps, your focus is so narrow, you are missing the bigger picture. Take inventory of these areas and become self-aware of how your talent patterns actually create your palette for dealing with conflict. It very well may prepare you for emerging conflicts that you will face.


Shelley Hom is a technology manager with the State of California who was introduced to Strengths Finder through a leadership academy at work. Using what she has learned both in her work and personal life, she mentors colleagues, family and friends on using ones’ strengths to get them where they want to go! When she isn’t working, she loves hanging out with people and enjoying the simple things life has to offer; laughing, chatting, reading, and let’s not forget writing – all usually done with a really good cup of coffee close at hand! Outside of blogging for 34 Strong Shelley’s own blog can be found at: www.myhomworld.com