Why We’re Afraid to Fight

The second dysfunction in Patrick Lencioni’s book The Five Dysfunctions of aTeam is “Fear of Conflict”.

Some are fighters. Others run from a fight like a cat from a rainstorm.
If you enjoy fighting, it’s victory you’re after. You don’t go in just so you can be bloodied up for nothing. That is just embarrassing. You want your way and if you have to stomp on someone to get it, so be it.
For those who choose fight over flight, it’s for practical reasons. Maybe you don’t have health insurance or you just want to avoid the pain that blows can bring, both physically and emotionally. Besides, only a real freak wants to get hurt on purpose, right? If you can solve a problem with a peace treaty or by raising a white flag, why shouldn’t you?
The problem is that standing alone, neither approach is totally effective.
If you’re a fighter, you find enemies around every corner. You might come to a solution, but it will be one that others agree to at first if only to get you to go away. Resentment will be nourished in hiding, like weeds that choke out the plants you want to grow. Team members won’t be thinking as a team but as opponents in a chess game.
If you’re a pacifist, you live in fear. You’re afraid you’ll lose if you give in, but you’d rather do that than get into a verbal battle. So you let the bullies have their way. Inside your intestines are knotting up. Your emotions are screaming for an outlet. If you keep the cap on the bottle by not dealing with the things you should, the pressure will blow it off like buckshot from a rifle. God help those around you when that happens!
The answer is to see things through the eyes of both the fighter and the pacifist. If it sounds like I’m advocating the development of a split personality, stay with me before you close the door.
Here’s the reality. Conflict at its best is healthy. Hashing it out reveals the answers you need to do your best work as a team. Healthy debate erodes away misconceptions like mudslides in California take away houses.
So, go ahead. Put on your boxing gloves. And thank God they are padded.
Next time we’ll look at what makes conflict healthy.