All meaningful relationships, whether at work or at home, have conflicts. The conflicts may be ongoing; they may come in short bursts; they may be separated by long interludes of harmony; but if those connections are to continue to be a source of inspiration, hopefulness, and steadfast loyalty, conflict has to become an acceptable and even welcome part of the equation.
Well, yes; given that conflict is an agent of change and change is a fundamental premise of life. We’re never not changing. We’re never not growing, and intermittently or even daily, the power of conflict is needed to boost that growth.
But as normal humans, we don’t generally view conflict like that… as a welcome and powerful ally. We don’t see it as an opportunity; we don’t see its tremendous potential. Instead, we view it as a threat or enemy. We become defensive, or arm ourselves to the hilt and go on the attack. Or we shy away from it, smile misleadingly, and pat it down to make it go away.
With that in mind, you might want to take a look at the way(s) in which you view conflict, and as such, we offer some points for you to ponder regarding your stance.
- Would you say you tend to duck conflict, or accept and enter into its discomfort?
- If you duck it, what are your reasons? (i.e. “I lack the skills/confidence to handle it.” “I don’t like the emotions that go along with it, such as….”)
- If you enter into it, how do you feel when you come out of it? Do you carry emotional residue? What kind?
- Would you say you honour or dishonour others during conflict? In what ways?
- And yourself? How do you honour/dishonour; respect/disrespect yourself?
- Overall, would you say conflict has served you poorly in the past or served you well? In what ways?
- Please finish this statement: “Someone who handles conflict well… .”
You’ll probably want to mull your thoughts over for a while. But if and when you’re ready to see conflict in a different way ‒ in a dare-we-say-it appreciative way ‒ the following avowals will help.
Seeing the Opportunity in Conflict
I see conflict as a chance to build bridges between people.
Conflict clears my mind. It shows me where I stand on things. It lets me see my triggers.
Conflict shows me where others stand on things. It shows me what matters to them. It shows me how to respect those values in the future.
Conflict is an opportunity to make things right (right, meaning in relation to the values I and others hold in life).
Conflict builds my character for it lets the purposeful self arise.
Conflict can be messy. It can be uncomfortable, but it isn’t the enemy.
Not having the skills or courage to manage it is the issue. Once we have those skills ‒ once we know how to manage contention, argument, and friction, our fear/stress levels go down and our interactions with others become less fraught and smoother.
What are some of the key skills, you ask? The willingness to listen to another point of view; the willingness to be wrong; the humility to admit you made a mistake or did something that was unthoughtful, unkind, or otherwise objectionable/harmful to the other party. We also mentioned courage. Yes, courage helps, but let us remind you that as Winston Churchill was known to say, courage is not the absence of fear; courage is acknowledging your fear and choosing to take action anyway.
So, hats off to conflict.
Great article, Peter.
Thanks so much Amy! Didn’t know you received our Newsletter. Great stuff! Hope life is treating you well.
Love the article! conflict to me is “feeling the fear and doing it anyway” mentality. It can be empowering when dealt with appropriately but can be fearful when approaching conflict with very strong overpowering personalities. It does build character and provides an opportunity to build and renew relationships and yet respecting the other in the process.
Thank you Mirra. I completely agree. It can be uncomfortable but there really is an opportunity inherent in it.
Conflict is being able to feel the fear and doing it anyway. It is about confronting situations so that resentments don’t form and allowing respectful relationships to develop. Its channeling negative energy into positive energy and establishing proactive solutions. Although fearful at times, it provides an opportunity to form meaningful relationships and manage more complex situations.
Thank you for this comment too Mirra. Well said! Glad you’re receiving and reading our Newsletters. 🙂
The one that spoke the most to me based on my recent experience was “Conflict shows me where others stand on things.” Recently I was in the situation where looking at the pattern of behavior I started to doubt our business partner’s motives. I triggered conflict by stating the facts that lead me to it and the conclusion I reached. The response was (as expected :)) explosive, but at the same time we where able to openly discuss and resolve my and other party’s concerns that greatly improved our relationship. So, in the end I now can “see conflict as a chance to build bridges between people”.
Thank you for the great article!
Hello Julia, Thank you for your compliment and thoughtful comments, and congratulations on having the courage to engage in a very difficult conversation. Your example is a great illustration of the opportunity that resides in conflict. Best wishes, Peter.