Why Becoming Curious about Conflict is Good for Business
Neurodiversity means we all think, behave, and respond differently. Recognizing the benefits of different perspectives and approaches is essential to making better decisions. But differences can lead to conflict, so how do you manage that?
Neurodiverse Conflict Is Good Conflict
Let’s be honest, when you think of “conflict,” you probably relate it to a terrible experience. The word doesn’t exactly feel positive or energizing.
Take that heated argument where you were shouted down. The meeting where you were belittled in front of your peers. Even your child’s tantrum that caused you to yell back. Conflict is distressing for both parties, even if it’s short lived.
Now, just imagine for a moment your emotional response isn’t fleeting. Instead, you feel like you’ve been in conflict your whole life. Your ideas are always described as “different;” your explanations seem to vary from “the norm;” and you’re regularly on edge about saying the “wrong” thing.
It’s no wonder some people would rather just avoid potential conflict by saying nothing at all.
Creating Psychological Safety
When you engage that curious coaching mind, you actively acknowledge there isn’t “one best way.” You encourage people to freely share their thoughts (“what more can you say about that?”) so they identify opportunities or risks because you’ve created a judgement-free, psychologically safe environment. And you openly adopt an approach in which sharing ideas and recognizing differences are both celebrated.
Stick with the alternative; however, you end up with a room of “yes” people who are afraid to challenge the status quo.
What Does Neurodiversity Look Like in Practice?
Let’s say the chief executive officer (CEO) never writes anything down. Instead, walking and talking is her preference. So, she chats with her chief operations officer (COO) as they both meander through the busy office and back to their desks.
In the background, the phones are going and the photocopiers chugging away. A small group are loudly chatting about last night’s football. And there’s a fluorescent light at the far right-hand side of the office that’s buzzing and flickering.
The CEO’s fine. She’s chatting away, getting stuff out of her head and, in her mind, onto her COO’s to-do list. But he’s struggling to concentrate.
His heart rate’s rising as the stress increases. He’s trying so hard to focus. But there’s the noise, the football, the light. It’s impossible to hear everything the CEO says, let alone act on it later.
It’s a recipe for future conflict.
How Does Coaching Help?
When a company’s culture encourages openness and thrives on sharing, people more willingly advocate for their needs and preferences. During coaching, the COO raises that it’s hard to take things in while walking and talking. He does much better when they sit somewhere quieter where he can write notes. You ask, “What could you do about that?”
He says he knows the CEO doesn’t need to be walking through the office, but she does need to be away from her desk to do her best thinking. Through coaching, the COO identifies a way he can comfortably speak up about his needs. He knows the CEO values his input but also recognizes he needs a different approach.
Through coaching, he decides he does want to do something about this, and he’s committed to the action. He and the CEO reach a compromise: They go to a large meeting room.
She can still wander about, but he writes notes as they talk. It lets him review key points and ask questions. And, importantly, this allows both parties to thrive.
Creating a neuroinclusive environment isn’t about the traditional view of conflict where one person’s right and the other is wrong. Instead, you cultivate a workplace where differences in communication and learning styles are no longer an obstacle. They’re a way to secure success.
Being Neuroinclusive Improves Culture
Businesses that embrace a coaching approach around neurodiversity see improvements in innovation because different perspectives offer insights they haven’t considered before. They benefit from an inclusive culture which values individuals for their own contribution and looks to maximize their potential without the risk of burnout.
Bottom line, getting curious (“what do you mean by that?”) and having a neuroinclusive approach to business helps people feel heard. And there are hundreds of studies on the importance of feeling valued and improved business performance.
So, if you want to get the best out of your people, actively look for differences. Celebrate them, promote them, and thrive on the idea that there is no “one best way.” Instead, revel in the myriad of options that different thinkers present.