Constructive Conflict

Hey Girl Heeey! Do you know what I just learned? Conflict can be healthy! Say what?! YES! Conflict can actually be healthy. If we learn how to work it right, moments of conflict can become opportunities to deepen and strengthen our relationships and our character. So right about now you’re probably thinking “Oh Lawd, Dr. Joy’s been standing too close to the laughing gas in the OR again… who WANTS to deal with conflict??!”

Let me explain. For the past year, I’ve been participating in Medical Association of Ga’s Physician Leadership Academy—so I go to school a weekend every other month to learn to be a better healthcare leader. On one of these weekends, I met Dr. Susan Raines, a political scientist and professor at Kennesaw State University. She teaches leaders how to handle sticky situations, have tough conversations, and to manage conflict. It was during this day of the conflict management course that this concept of constructive conflict “clicked” for me, and it ROCKED MY WORLD! I decided to invest in personal coaching with Dr. Raines to learn all I can about this kind of healthy communication.

If you were raised like me, I.e., a “nice, Southern young lady” who must always sit up straight at the dinner table, chew with her mouth closed, choose the correct fork, and always say “please” and “thank you,” then you know what I’m talking about. If anyone every taught you to be always charming because “a lady is never disagreeable or ugly-acting,” then I know you feel me here!

Many women are programmed to PRETEND. We pretend we are not annoyed, pretend we are not hurt or angry, pretend we are not afraid. We even pretend we agree with or want to do things that we absolutely, positively do NOT agree with or want to do.

You see, conflict comes from a discrepancy in expectations–I expected something and you expected something different. When expectations don’t line up, we often find ourselves frustrated, confused, or even mad as hell. But… what exactly do we do about that? Pretend we don’t feel what we feel? Act like it didn’t happen? Suppose that it must somehow be our own fault?

No! None of the above! When conflicts arise, it’s a perfect opportunity to create SHARED expectations! As in saying something like “I can see that we have some conflict here. Can you tell me what you were expecting from me that didn’t happen, and then I can tell you what my expectations were and maybe we can see how we can meet in the middle going forward?”

This sort of dialog: 1. deescalates the situation, 2. almost forces dialog about where communication broke down, and 3. helps you learn more about the individuals needs/expectations, so you are aware going forward—particularly if this is a relationship that is important to you.

This concept is called “3-Step Problem Solving” and it is helping me learn to stay AWAY from the “4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse” in communication within my meaningful relationships. The 4 Horsemen spell DOOM!  Want to know what they are? Stay tuned for next month’s blog!

Connect with me on my socials at and let me know if you use the 3-step problem solving. I’m dying to know how it works for you!

Until next month,


Dr. Joy