I hate conflict, I usually avoid it at all costs. This week it was unavoidable, conflict was all around me. In some cases I was a participant and in others just an observer.
Although I dislike conflict, I have learned some valuable things about it. Conflict can bring to light festering problems that have to be resolved. It is often the beginning of very positive movement forward and change for all involved. It can also unite people in a common goal, actually improving relationships. Conflict makes us honest about our feelings, which is always a good thing.
I love the Jimi Hendrix quote “Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.” This is my approach to handling conflict. I like to sit back and listen, observing the other players in a conflict before speaking up. I have found that a delayed response approach is much more effective, my immediate response changes as I gather more information about where everyone is coming from in a conflict situation.
My Dad was a great conflict manager. He could manage all kinds of conflict because he kept a cool head in nearly every situation. I guess that was probably self-defense raising 3 teenage daughters! I tend to fall back on his wisdom when struggling with conflict. He rarely took anything personally and could always see the good in other people. He worked hard to see things from other people’s perspective and did not jump immediately to judgment about anything. Sometimes when I am feeling a little hot-headed (I get that from my Mom) I ask myself what my Dad would do in this situation.
I find it troubling that as a culture we seem to be moving to a place where we all have to agree or there will be conflict. I am not sure what happened to lively debate and agreeing to disagree. I can care for a person and not agree with everything they think or believe. After all, our thoughts and beliefs are not who we are. Where would we be without diversity? In nature diversity is required or ecosystems collapse. Are we headed for some kind of societal collapse if we continue to root our differences and polarize? I don’t know, but I do know that the energy of conflict is strong right now. I see it on all levels of relationship.
Here are a few guidelines to consider when you find yourself in a conflict.
Take a little time to think and observe before reacting.
Ask yourself, is this really important. If it is, stand up for yourself.
Be respectful, remember that we are all human beings and our value is not determined by our beliefs.
Take a break, sometimes when conflict is occurring we need to step back to get perspective.
Allow change to happen. What feels like a loss in the moment will likely be a positive later on.
No matter what, we are all in this together. Conflict will change our relationships and move our lives forward. As with everything, it is not the conflict itself, but how we handle it that is most important.
I talked about strategies to manage conflict on my radio show, Kindred Spirits, this week on 12radio.com.
Watch the show here!