How to Tell If a Conflict is Good or Bad

Not all conflict is bad. In fact some conflict can actually be good.

The difference is whether the conflict is constructive or destructive.

The challenge is that the emotional energy, body language, and other external signs of the conflict can look the same to an outside observer.

So, how can you tell the difference between a constructive conflict and a destructive conflict?

Here are three tell-tale signs to help you distinguish between the two types.

  1. Constructive conflict conversations focus on issues. Destructive conflict conversations focus on people.
  2. Constructive conflict conversations focus on the future. Destructive conflict conversations focus on the past.
  3. Constructive conflict conversations bring people together to solve a problem. Destructive conflict conversations create polarization and division within an organization.

If a conflict conversation is constructive, let it go to completion. It is likely to turn out well.

If a conflict conversation is destructive, use the Seven Secrets for Resolving Personal Workplace Conflict to move the conflict in a positive direction.

Photo by jphilipg.


  1. […] When you communicate clearly about what people can expect in the future — even when they do not like what they will experience  — you will probably reduce the frustration and anger levels they feel as a result of the experience. By reducing their frustration and anger levels, you can reduce the emotional energy that they bring to their interactions with you about the issue in question. When you reduce the emotional energy, you reduce the risk that the communication will escalate to a destructive conflict. […]

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