“The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” describes the fear (and avoidance of) conflict as “artificial harmony”
So the question is (page 92):
“But why is harmony a problem?
“It’s the lack of conflict that’s a problem. Harmony itself is good, I suppose, if it comes as a result of working through issues constantly and cycling through conflict. But if it comes only as a result of people holding back their opinions and honest concerns, then it’s a bad thing.”
Conflict is good when it is:
1. Loving. The bottom line for me is always: What is the most loving response? Sometimes the most loving response is to keep my opinions to myself, but more often than not, it is to prayerfully engage the ones I love with what is in my heart. Engaging in conflict as a servant – with a view of building others up – will facilitate growth. The problems arises in that conflict makes us feel bad, and then we either project that on the person we are having conflict with (they are bad), or we act badly ourselves.
2. Honest. In “Leadership and Self Deception”, they describe the cycle of failing to do what we know is right and then making everybody else the bad guy in our minds. When we withhold our viewpoint out of fear of conflict, we are not being loving to those around us. However, withholding our opinion is very different from waiting to voice our opinion for a better time or when we can think it through, pray it through, and voice it best. If what is going to come out of your mouth is pure emotion or gibberish, wait.
3. Respectful. This goes with my bottom line. If I engage others, I must do it lovingly and respectfully, knowing that they have full rights to humanity just like me. I can’t dehumanize them in my mind to make myself feel better. In the end, I may find that I was wrong. Always I will find that we have been changed.
At a leadership thing I went to a while back, Les Welk spoke about the importance of tension, and used one of those rubber band wind up planes to show how tension is a force that moves us forward. Conflict is tension, and when it is handled with love, honesty and respect, we will be moved forward to be what God created us to be.