Constructive Conflict- Weigh In


November 13, 2010

I was part of a discussion recently about partnership.  We were talking about the need for open, constructive conflict at times.  But, what if you are labeled or think of yourself as “nice”?  What then?

Is it possible to be “nice” and still be part of constructive conflict in order to further an idea?

Just curious….


  • This has been something of debate over the years.

    I have been in a songwriting partnership with Rob Canada for over four years now. We have never had arguments that escalated to a fight.

    I think of myself as a bit salty. After all, I tend to call things as I see them and rarely apologise (though I did yesterday; I have been stepping in it all week) for expressing my viewpoint.

    Whether it was in the last failed band project (Waking Lincoln) or when writing a song with Rob, I am seen as the nice guy who rarely minces words, yet am never either personal or mean. I get this, even after I said to Rob once “put this thing away, you can’t polish a f***ing turd!!!!” It isn’t personal; it’s just that I do not like failure.

    I guess it is possible, or I am told one thing to my face and another behind my back (which is entirely possible)…

    • @Doug- Thank you for sharing some personal examples. I have been working with a team in my organization on behaviors that partners demonstrate. One thing we were discussing is what does partnership look like. It was really hard to define. I’ve heard that it’s like pornography, you know it when you see it. Having your examples helps me “see” it a little better. So glad you weighed in. Thanks!

  • I believe absolutely yes, but think you actually need that (being nice)….to be what we have termed as “classy honest” – being honest, especially in conflict can burn – it may take you longer to be classy about it and not go for the extra digs, but taking the extra time to be nice to not get into the personal part is critical in building and maintaining relationships/partnerships over the long term. Harder, but worth it.

    • @Shannon- You are SO right about it being worth it to remain classy even if it takes longer. Great term you created….”classy honest”! Thanks

  • Yes, of course you can. But it all starts with respect for the person/persons on the other side of the table. I have had knock down drag out battles in the office, but they’ve not turned ugly because the people in the room had a strong mutual respect, and we all had the same goal in mind.

    Where you get into trouble is when that respect isn’t present or is taken for granted when it shouldn’t be.

    • @Dwane- Respect is the key ingredient when having a conflict with a partner. What do we do though when that strong mutual respect is not there? I think this is where many attempted partnerships fail. One person thinks they are better than the other.

  • Per my experience, Dwane nailed one of the two things you have to have for a partnership to successful:
    1. Expect respect from your partner(s) and make damn sure you give back that respect.
    2. Everyone on the team need the willingness to NOT agree. Always having yes as the answer never drives innovation or real big time success. Sometimes you have to break things to make the work better.

    In response to your question: absolutely can and should be “nice”. You can also be direct determined, outspoken and smart in how you run your business. Lastly, selecting your partners; I’ve learned the hard way that I have to make sure I pick my partners very, very carefully. Thanks, BW

  • I think the trigger word here is “conflict”. Where there are different views there will be multiple ideas, not all in the same general direction. So yes, nice people can see things in different ways and then constructively come to solutions. Conflict does not have to include mean-spirited debates or dark arguments.
    I am fortunate enough to work with a team that expects everyone to bring their best ideas, knowing that we will frequently challenge one another to come to a best alternative.
    We win, together, because we are willing to have ‘conflict’.

    • Hi everyone- Thanks for weighing in on constructive conflict. I just had that thought rolling around in my head and your comments helped solidify some things for me. Thank you!

Comments are closed.

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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.




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