Recently, it may feel like conflict and divisiveness have become constant aspects of our lives. From work to social media to politics to personal life, someone is always disagreeing with someone else about something. A recent article in PA Township News (featuring additional insights from Solutions 21 Vice President of Growth and Development Albert Ciuksza) offers five tips for embracing and utilizing healthy conflict in the workplace.

Embrace healthy conflict

No matter how conflict-averse you are, disagreements will always be a part of our lives. Conflict can be healthy and productive if dealt with in the right way. “Conflicts often become divisive when there is a lack of flexibility,” says Ciuksza. “People have to be willing to hit the pause button and look at the problem a different way.” When colleagues adapt and work through a conflict together in a healthy way, they will gain confidence in their ability to function as a cohesive team and “feel better equipped to deal with other issues in the future,” article author Amy Bobb says.

Build trust

Healthy disagreements begin with good communication and building trust with each other. Frequently, conflict arises because people don’t feel like they are part of the decision-making process. A lack of communication and unequal information-sharing can cause people to become defensive. “Honesty and transparency can go a long way in building trust” among colleagues. “Providing complete information to everyone ensures that [they] are equipped to join in discussions and feel like contributing members.”

Foster respect

At its core, conflict is a difference of opinions, says Neal Fogle, an economic and community development educator with the Penn State Extension. When participants in a conversation can voice their opinions and feel heard, they both present and feel respect for and from their colleagues. They may disagree on the discussion, but they can feel that their voice was heard and their opinion was valued. A productive approach to conflict is to learn how to manage your own responses and reactions to conflict. Once you understand your responses, you can begin to understand your coworkers’ responses when conflicts arise and learn how to mitigate possible issues that arise from these reactions.

Keep your cool in meetings

It is vital to have healthy disagreements when trying to reach a decision, but—keep in mind—it’s important to keep tempers and emotions in check. One way leaders can combat possible arguments is to share information about agenda items with attendees before the meeting. The more informed and prepared everyone is ahead of time, the less likely it is that the meeting will turn confrontational. Information is power, so the best way to help calm things down is to make sure everyone understands what’s going on.

Be a leader

Conflict resolution, at its core, is a test of leadership. Well-functioning teams understand that it is beneficial to take a step back and agree on the underlying reason for why they are doing something. By keeping this purpose in mind and listening to differences in opinions productively, leaders may find that there may be multiple ways to solve a problem, Fogle says. If handled correctly, “conflict can be a healthy and productive component of a well-functioning team, but it begins with leaders who are willing embrace collaboration and explore issues without resorting to divisiveness and acrimony,” states Bobb’s article.

When dealing with conflict, “you have to think about the long game,” says Ciuksza. “The [business] will be there long after you are gone, so don’t be destructive and make the issue only about you.”

To learn more from PA Township News, check out their website.