Nonprofit Network Blog

The Value of Conflict

Thursday, May 19, 2022 3:55 PM | Tracey Wilson (Administrator)



Regina Pinney
Executive Director

"In order to have a conversation with someone you must reveal yourself." James Baldwin


There are two types of conflict:

Cognitive, which focuses on substantive differences of opinion, improves team effectiveness, and produces better decisions, increases commitment, increases understanding, and increases empathy. Cognitive conflict occurs as team members examine, compare, and reconcile these differences. This type of conflict requires team members to focus attention on all too often ignored assumptions.

The other type of conflict is Affective.
Affective conflict is characterized by disagreements over personalized, individually oriented matters that reduce team effectiveness and produce destructive conflict, poorer decisions, fosters hostility, distrust, avoidance, and apathy.

Teams and people who use cognitive conflict encourage thinking beyond the customary options. They listen to minority voices, encourage dissenting opinions, and synergize the thoughts and perspectives of different members. They approach problems from totally new perspectives. They challenge, productively, one another's assumptions. They encourage members to speak freely and challenge the premises of other member's viewpoints without the threat of anger, resentment, or retribution.

Cognitive conflict is accomplished by pausing, paraphrasing, inquiring, and using stems of connection and transition as part of putting new ideas on the table. Examples of stems of connection include, “Here is a related thought”, “I hold it another way”, “From another perspective”, “An additional idea might be”, “an assumption I am exploring is....”
(Adaptive Foundations, Garmston and Wellman)

"Conflict can be seen as a gift of energy, in which neither side loses,
and a new dance is created." Thomas Crum.

You, or someone you know, might be someone who needs to move from affective conflict to cognitive conflict. We can help. Nonprofit Network helps nonprofit organizations find better, smarter, more efficient ways to work and serve their community. All nonprofit organizations are unique. The path to efficiency, transparency and accountability is different for everyone. 

Please plan to join us at our next virtual workshop, Conflict Management on May 25th at 1PM. We will further discuss the different types of conflict, and how to address conflict among teams and within organizations to increase collaboration. Or if you need to schedule a conversation, please email us for an appointment.


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