Critical Thinking and Conflict Management

Conflicts are inevitable. They are a natural part of navigating life’s unfolding events.

As you reflect on this, be mindful that conflict may be external and internal.

“Bad hair day” and “Getting up on the wrong side of the bed” are phrases that confirm the impact of internal conflict. 


Conflict management coaching and training tends to focus on resolution.

Putting on my Critical Thinking cap, the question arises as to why not pay more attention on pre-empting conflicts?


By applying Critical Thinking principles, we can reduce the number of conflicts that we have to deal with at any given time.

Here are a few examples. 

Critical Thinking Principle #1: Be observant.

You are aware that conflicts – internal and external – tend to have a recurring pattern. 

A Critical Thinker is therefore able to take careful note of the circumstances and triggers that provoke a particular conflict. 

Since the Critical Thinker appreciates the disruptive nature of conflict, they would take action to interrupt the sequence going forward. 

Critical Thinking Principle #2: Be open-minded.

A lot of conflicts arise from a failure to listen. The Bible talks about “itching ears” – we hear what we want to hear. 

I have the experience of addressing factory workers and taking care to present my few points with added clarity.

I was concerned about how information had been twisted in the past.

I asked one member in the meeting to recount what he understood me to be saying.

It was not very far from the exact opposite. 

This experience is common.  That is why we so often hear “Oh, I thought…”.

This issue is underpinned by the tendency to “know that we are right and refuse to yield any ground”.

A Critical Thinker might even refrain from “enforcing” being factually correct in the interest of team dynamics and interpersonal relationships.

At the same time, an open mind with an appreciation that it can be wrong and misguided could prevent a lot of long, drawn out, energy-sapping conflict.

The Critical Thinker’s willingness to test their own views and tightly held positions might help them to relinquish error.

At a minimum, it will help them to understand the arguments of others.

Critical Thinking Principle #3: Probe for accuracy and validity. Be evidence driven.

You will be aware of how much conflict arises over the disputing of factual issues.

Those could be resolved by a simple reference to a reliable data source.

Sports buffs argue over statistics that are readily accessible.

The Critical Thinker produces the evidence to shed light and reduce heat.

Similarly, work colleagues will dig in their heels about matters that could be easily addressed.

Reference could be made to email threads or other documentation. 

Why not lead an evidence-based life for a more peaceful existence?


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