Do you like to handle conflict? Or are you the first to turn your back and run away when you just sense a small disagreement coming up? Most of my clients will choose the latter. Today I want to discuss the subject of conflict with you and share some of my thoughts on it with you. I have NEVER met someone who LOVES handling conflict, but I have met people who like to create conflict or who are good at handling conflict. All relationships have conflict or disagreement now and then. You cannot ignore it or avoid it forever. I think it is healthy to have conflict. I once heard a marriage counsellor who said if you don’t have disagreements in marriage, you have a problem! The context for that opinion was that if you never have a disagreement, you probably live separate lives and don’t get to work on each other’s nerves now and then. Ronald Reagan said peace is not absence of conflict. I will get to the rest of his quote later. But peace can be fake. You can keep the peace but have a war raging inside of you. Good conflict resolution can GROW a relationship and if we keep on ignoring the issues that crop up now and then we rob ourselves from deeper, more fulfilling friendships and relationships. I love the way Max Lucado puts it: Conflict is inevitable, but combat is optional. Max Lucado Most of us might be experts when it comes to other peoples’ conflict, but we are novices when we are part and parcel of the conflict situation. Why does conflict create such a difficulty if it is part of human nature? One of the reasons are that we never learned what to do and how to do it. We teach our children so many skills, but do we teach them conflict resolution? Our children get exposed to conflict, but that does not mean they know what to do with it. Have you ever learned what to do with conflict? Your perspective on life comes from the cage you were held captive in. Shannon L. Alder Many times our approach with conflict is determined by how we were raised. If you experienced conflict in your home, you either Copy and Paste your parents’ style OR you rebel from it. I think some of the biggest reasons we tend to avoid conflict is because of bad experiences during childhood, which we desperately want to forget. It is like riding a bicycle, losing your balance and falling down. The impact of the fall resulted in a raw, scraped knee that was extremely painful. You decided you will never get on the bicycle again, because it was too painful. We do the same with conflict, but contrary to the bicycle example, we keep to the resolution to never get up again. Tomorrow you will find the child riding along on the bicycle, having fun, while you are still licking your wounds of the recent conflict battle you lost. Conflict can inflict deep wounds, but we need to learn how to get up on the “bicycle” again and believe we can actually have fun. Many times our inability to manage conflict has to do with what we believe about conflict. See which of these resonate with you: I am not the fighting type. I will never win this fight. I will feel bad if I win this fight. I don’t want the other person to feel bad about him/herself. It’s not worth it. I’m not good at it, so I will rather not disagree. I need to turn the other cheek. It is expected of me to be the least. Are there any other beliefs you can add to this list? How true are these beliefs? I think they come form a good heart with good intentions, but they are not helpful at all, they limit your ability to resolve conflict. They might be true at times, but I believe most of the time it is just an excuse not to deal with the problem at hand. Many times we see conflict as fighting. Some conflict can come across as fighting, but I want to call that miss-managed conflict. Conflict does not need to be a full on fight – that is childish. Stephen Moyer puts it in perspective. Conflict is drama, and how people deal with conflict shows you the kind of people they are. Stephen Moyer Mature conflict can be something like a disagreement with very strong viewpoints on either side. Do not think of knocking out another person’s brains because he differs in opinion from you. It would be as rational to knock yourself on the head because you differ from yourself ten years ago. Horace Mann It is also not useful to believe you will never win this fight. You cannot give up even before you tried. Sometimes we just need the knowledge, skill and experience to be able to manage the disagreement so that it does not end up in a fight. No one learns how to drive a car by not practicing the skill of driving! Here is the rest of the quote from Ronal Reagan: Peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means. Ronald Reagan We learn of a similar principle in the Bible. A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Prov.15:1 The whole idea not to partake in conflict because I will feel bad, or hurt someone else’s feelings, is also a misnomer. Conflict does not necessarily hurt feelings. Conflict can be handled in such a way that the other person sees the benefit for him/herself, whether his/her feelings are a bit hurt or not. If the person is emotionally mature, he/she will see the benefit of getting honest feedback, of trying to understand the other person. If the other person is not emotionally mature it is an ideal opportunity to learn emotionally maturity from the situation. Handling these difficult situations are the best fertilizer to grow maturity. It is always worth it to manage conflict. I don’t think one should sweat the small stuff, but don’t always ignore the small stuff. You know the saying: it is the small foxes that spoil the vine. It is worth it to address conflict and I think it is best to practice on the small foxes. It is when we ignore the small ones, which grow up into big foxes that can cause much more damage. You are worth it to have the conflict resolved, the other person is worth it to learn and grow with you in these situations. And saying you must always turn the other cheek…… Well I do understand why people feel like it. It reminds me of this quote from Mahatma Gandhi An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind. Mahatma Gandhi But I also think people will stay blind if no one ever confronts them with the obvious. I had instances where friends had the guts to tell me things in honesty, no matter whether it will hurt my feelings or not and I was so thankful that they showed me the splinter or the log in my eye, I am so grateful if people let me know how I might be perceived, without intending to be that way. It is great if someone can help you in love. You don’t always have to be the least in every situation, you can make someone great by sharing the truth with them. Or at least your perspective of the truth, it can just open up someone else’s eyes. Whenever two good people argue over principles, they are both right. Marie Von Ebner-Eschenbach When we acquire the knowledge from books, courses, mentors or coaches we have passed our learner driver’s license. Now we need to practice the skills of looking into the mirrors, parking the car, driving on the highway and practicing the emergency stop. When we’ve passed the test, we can start gathering up the experience. Conflict is a skill that everyone can improve on, but it requires the effort and willingness to learn. It is impossible to give you all the tools in this podcast, but I can list most of them.
- Listen! And then listen again.
- Regulate your emotions. Don’t supress them, manage them, understand them, but don’t allow them to run the show.
- Understand your hot spots and your own trigger points.
- Communicate effectively. Don’t be lost in translation
- Agree what you can agree on, but know when to agree to disagree.
- The one with the problem must do the talking.