The Perception Of Conflict Is Conflict

by Christopher Paul on February 13, 2014

Fred Wilson has a great post on conflict. It’s certainly geared toward VCs and startup investing but this can be applied in almost any circumstance.

When someone feels that something you invest in is encroaching on his or her territory, you have created a perception of conflict with that entrepreneur. Even if he or she is dead wrong about that, it doesn’t really matter because they are now in conflict with you in their own mind and they won’t listen to you the same way again…

So the meta point I am making in this post is that it isn’t the facts that matter when discussing conflict. It is the perception that matters. If anyone in a relationship with you perceives that you are in a conflicted situation, you are in a conflicted situation whether you agree with them or not. Your only choice is to try to convince them otherwise before you obligate yourself to the conflict situation. Once you’ve obligated yourself, it is too late.

I take this idea to heart given my own line of work. But without going too much into it, conflicts – especially conflicts of interest – are very dangerous. I would never want to be in a situation or cause a situation where I or someone I knew felt conflicted. It affects the quality of my work and my reputation as a professional. And I can see why Wilson felt there was a conflict in the particular situation that inspired the post.

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