Conflict is a virtue: reflections from a cigar lounge in Montreal

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by Tieja MacLaughlin

When was the last time you had an argument?

A truly passionate, spirited disagreement, or intelligent debate.

What's more, when was the last time you had an argument that didn't result in an estranged relationship?

Conflict is a catalyst for growth. So why are we so turned off by the idea of fighting?

Given the sensitivities of well, everything, in 2017, the fear of unintentionally offending someone is valid. 

But this shouldn't prevent us from challenging others' point of view. 

THE LOTUS FLOWER

Earlier this month I spent time in Montreal for a client project, and was introduced to the secret - albeit accessible - society that is La Casa de Habano

Tucked behind the storefront of a cigar shop, the smoking lounge offers a mahogany-rich, lush leather-infused backdrop to indulge in a Cuban and proper cocktail. The ambiance is one of sophistication, class and elegance, and the clientele exudes the same sentiment.

As I settled in with my Montecristo and an Old Fashioned, the conversation naturally settled on business among the CEO's and finance sharks of the group.

One of the men posed a question to the group:

"A lotus flower doubles in size every minute. In one hour, the lotus flower will cover an entire lake. In how many minutes will the lake be one quarter covered?" 

I didn't know the answer, but I hypothesized about what it could be, and walked through my thought process aloud.

Thus, it turns out, being the point. 

The question was posed in an interview by this same man to a candidate he was interviewing. His interest was not in the correct answer, per se, but in the articulation of their thought process.

THE ADVERSITY STRATEGY

As we discussed hiring strategies, we examined the valuable qualities of an employee or colleague. The strategy behind solving a mathematics equation being one. Which lends itself to valuable quality number two: conflict resolution. 

Can my teammate handle adversity? Can they communicate their point-of-view in a thoughtful and articulate manner? Can they debate and ultimately come to a compromise or solution? Will they stand up for the things they are passionate about? 

There is a difference between productive debate, and downright mud slinging. The objective of course, being the former. I think this is an invaluable quality in any type of relationship, from professional to romantic. 

THE VERBAL BOXING MATCH

When I disagree with someone, before letting my emotions take over, I take a moment to recalibrate. We take a step back and set a timer, as if it's a boxing match, then verbally spar until the time runs out.

At the end of the bout, we examine our wins and losses, shake hands and come to an agreement. Sometimes the agreement is simply a disagreement. Sometimes I open up my opponent's mind to a new way of seeing things, other times I am proven unequivocally incorrect. No matter what the outcome, I am thankful to have engaged.  

So here's to more fighting.

Take the gloves off. Expand the mind. Conflict truly is a virtue.

PS - the answer: 58 minutes. 

Tieja MacLaughlin