Journal article | September 2014 | Available for purchase & free for members
Attempting to avoid disputes and disagreements in all facets of day-to-day life including at work, home, and our broader community is common. This is ordinarily due to the negative and destructive stigma attached to situations of conflict, and the assumed associated damage to relationships. As early as 1925, Mary Follett (US social worker, management consultant and pioneer in the field of organisational theory and behaviour) recognised the possibilities of engaging constructively in disagreement or conflict with the potential to capitalise on the process of doing so.
Conflict is generally inevitable and it has been commonly agreed and confirmed by neurobiology, that the ‘fight or flight’ response to conflict is an instinctive one and allows emotions and biases in conflict situations to act as an impediment to resolution. Others argue, however, that whilst difficult, it is possible to respond calmly to disagreements and situations of conflict and benefit consequentially. The theories and practices of communication within our relationships, relationship maintenance, the practice of mindfulness, the role of a ‘third side’ and the practice of apology and forgiveness are seen as instrumental in determining conflict as ‘constructive’ rather than ‘destructive’. Further, the process of a constructive
disagreement indeed has the potential for benefit rather than just resolution.
This paper examines the concept of conflict and disagreements and the power to transform these situations into ‘constructive disagreements’.
We thank the author of this article Dr Paul R Gibson and Ms Katherine Evans and the journal editor Russell Thirgood for their contribution to this journal.