Embracing Conflict: Lessons from a Volatile Home for Sales Professionals

The Uncomfortable Roots of Conflict Avoidance

I grew up in a house where conflict was a regular visitor. My father, a Vietnam vet suffering from PTSD, often found himself in heated verbal exchanges with my mother. As a kid, these episodes instilled in me a deep fear and discomfort around conflict—a sentiment I carried into my adult life. As sales professionals, many of us find ourselves in similarly precarious situations, and the temptation to avoid conflict can be strong. However, conflict avoidance, while comfortable, isn’t always the helpful route. Here’s why.

The Costs of Conflict Avoidance

As a child, I found myself avoiding the loud, messy arguments between my parents at all costs. My strategy? The louder one got, the farther away I would escape. This approach might have brought me momentary peace, but it didn’t solve any underlying issues. In sales, avoiding conflicts with clients or team members can have similar repercussions. Ignored issues often grow bigger, making them even more daunting to address later on.

Why Conflict is Inevitable in Sales

In the fast-paced, high-stakes world of sales, conflict is practically a given. Whether it’s a disagreement over contract terms or clashing strategies within a team, the potential for friction is ever-present. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Conflict can be a catalyst for constructive change—if handled correctly.

Learning to Stand Up: The Turning Point

It wasn’t until my professional life started to take shape that I realized the need to confront my conflict-avoidant tendencies. I had to learn to stand up for myself, and not just because it was right, but because it was essential for my career. If you want to excel in sales, you too will need to embrace conflict as a means to growth and improved team dynamics.

Strategies to Embrace Conflict Effectively

  1. Open and Honest Communication

Don’t let issues fester. Address them head-on through open dialogue, preferably before tensions reach a boiling point.

  1. Be Solution-Oriented

The goal is not to win an argument but to reach an optimal resolution for both parties. Aim to understand the underlying needs and concerns of each side.

  1. Foster Emotional Intelligence

Being aware of your emotions and those of others can significantly aid in resolving conflicts. It allows you to approach situations with empathy, reducing defensive reactions.

  1. Be Willing to Compromise

Sometimes you won’t get exactly what you want, and that’s okay. Be prepared to meet the other party halfway.

The Evolution of Conflict Resolution

My parents had just celebrated 57 years of marriage just before my dad died. Age and time had mellowed out the volatility, offering some peaceful years to their long-standing union. For me, embracing conflict rather than avoiding it has not only made me more resilient but also improved my capacity as a sales professional. Conflict is not something to run away from but a challenge to rise to; the rewards, both personal and professional, make the struggle worthwhile.