What is life without conflict? Is it really living?
Every story or Hollywood movie has conflict at its core. Remember in English class where we learned there are three kinds of conflict? Man against man, man against himself and man against nature? We live in a world meant for tension which challenges and forces us to grow.
There are two choices when we are confronted with conflict: step in or walk away. How often are we seduced by a lame reason to jump in when we shouldn’t? And how much more often do we walk away when the called-for action is to articulate need, speak truth or voice thinking?
Navigating what we’re called to do requires intention. What outcome do you seek? Your current way of getting there is probably based on how you learned conflict in your upbringing. How did the adults in your life deal with conflict? With outrageous quarrels, or painful silence? How did you handle conflict with your siblings? Did you take control or acquiesce? Do you still use some of these practices today, with your spouse or kids?
I once read that you can never truly love another until you understand their grief. A simple concept, but one I’ve found to be true. From grief comes sadness and fear, and from those, reactive behaviors that protect one’s own spirit, and sometimes hurt another’s.
Without trying to understand where someone is coming from, and what they carry in their baggage, it can be easy to assume that other people’s actions and behaviors are a direct assault on you. Sometimes – often - it really is about them, and their need to get love, lose fear or work out their own inner turmoil. Making it about you personalizes the situation, and only makes it worse. But isn’t this what we do? And instead of defaulting to compassion for the other person, we get ticked off!
We can have disagreements about opinions, ideas or ways of doing things – this is called substantive conflict and serves a purpose in creating growth and moving things forward. By introducing diverse views, opinions, beliefs or experiences, we gain the benefit of creativity and innovation, as long as we remain open. It’s when we introduce emotion, feelings and perceived character assassinations that substantive conflict becomes personalized, creating heightened tension and reduced capacity to solve problems. The bad news about personalized conflict is that it’s often our own thinking or meaning we attach to others’ words or behaviors that create the conflict. The good news about personalized conflict is that it’s often our own thinking or meaning we attach to others’ words or behaviors that create the conflict – which means it is within our own control to stop it! Is the other person truly acting with cruel intent? If you perceive they are, what could be causing this behavior? Sometimes you may not know. Whatever you do, get curious. Asking internal questions about the situation will trigger the rational side of your brain, allowing you to stay more “emotionally intelligent” and protecting you from personalizing the situation.
Co-Founder of Juice Inc, Thought Leader & Author
Co-Founder of Juice Inc.
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