You know it when you feel it. At least I do. I become defensive. My face goes red. My breath gets shallow (and so do some of my words…) I get tense and my lips purse. Physiologically, my body is prepping for flight or fight mode. In fact it does at the mere mention of the word. Conflict.
What does it do to you? Conflict comes from the word confligere, derived from con, which means together, and the Latin fligere, which means to beat down. No wonder our bodies take on a protection stance when we hear the word.
As a kid, my conflict training came from sibling combats for the last cookie or remote control. There was very little guidance at school, except to say you turn the other cheek. (Was that another way of saying run away from it?) Turns out though, with a little bit of education, conflict doesn’t need to be such a threat. In fact, there are benefits to conflict. It can catalyze change, force decisions, boost trust, promote diverse opinions, and even strengthen relationships. An absence of conflict can signal suppressed views, it stifles growth and it limits the ability for attitudes, behaviors and relationships to evolve and change.
Do any of these opportunities exist within a current conflict you are struggling with?
Finding common ground is critical to resolving conflict but that is so much easier said than done. The same can be said for trying to understand another person’s values. Yet there’s a way to get there. The first step is to remain open, and you can do that by being curious. Ask questions genuine questions that get at the heart of the issue rather than those that help you prove your point.
Another approach is to change your perspective. In conflict, each person feels like they were “hit” first – they were wronged by someone else and there’s no possible way they did the harming. Consider for a moment, where the other person is coming from and how they could have possibly perceived a wrong-doing by you. Also think about the qualities you like in the person with whom you are quarreling. The hope is that you become more open as you are consumed by compassion and empathy rather than closed off, by anger and bitterness.
Finally, conflict is not intentional. Typically, there’s an issue behind the issue, and the presenting conflict is not the true source of pain - there's something else going on. Explore the true source and remember, people don’t do things to you – they do them for themselves – to get their own need met.
Co-Founder of Juice Inc, Thought Leader & Author
Co-Founder of Juice Inc.
Vice President, Business Development
Business Development, Juice USA
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