I used to hate conflict.
I wanted to get along with everyone. And secretly, I simply wanted to be liked.
So if that meant denying my own internal truths to avoid conflict, I did it.
But that wasn’t fair to me—or to the person I was engaged within a discussion.
It took me a long, long time to finally deal with conflict appropriately.
Conflict is inevitable. We live in a big, diverse world and not everyone will see things from your perspective. Their needs will often collide with your own. Their viewpoints will run counter to yours.
The important point is to 1) accept that conflict is a part of life and 2) determine that you will address it with care, compassion, and a desire to understand the other person’s view.
Only a toddler demands his or her own way. And they are demanding because they have limited reasoning skills. They are running on pure emotion and if they don’t get their own way, they throw a temper tantrum.
It’s tough to tamp down emotions, especially when dealing with “hot button” topics. But in order to deal with conflict, we have to rein in our emotions as best we can.
If emotions are running high, it’s a good idea to say to the person, “Hey, why don’t we discuss this more at length at a later time?”
Making such a statement will allow both of you to take a step back and examine your emotions. Our reactions usually have a complicated lineage. We could be operating on old thinking patterns, a bad experience with someone in our family, or any other type of interaction that made us feel lousy.
But here’s the amazing news about conflict that I don’t see mentioned very often.
Conflict Is the Fierce Wind That Creates Strength
I read about an experiment where scientists created a biodome in the desert – a living environment for humans, plants, and animal life.
They built a huge glass dome to house an artificially controlled environment. They included everything. Purified air, water, healthy soil, and filtered light. The goal was to create a perfect growing condition for trees, fruits, vegetables, and even humans.
But they ran into a problem.
Everything seemed to work with the exception of the trees.
You see, when the trees grew to a certain height, they fell over. It perplexed the scientists until they finally figured out the one element they forgot to add.
Trees need wind to blow against them because it causes their root system to deepen, which supports the tree as it grows taller.
Think about your own growth.
As you learn to deal with conflict, you’re also developing those strong “roots” that define who you are.
You’re learning what you really believe in and why. And perhaps you might learn that what you thought you believed no longer served you and you discovered a new way to look at things.
Conflict Strengthens a Relationship
I know that sounds counter-intuitive, but let me explain.
Fewer things make me happy as finding common ground after a misunderstanding and then getting to that “hey… let’s grab a beer” (or equivalent) stage.
As much as I get the whole “can’t we all get along” sentiment, there really is a place to allow each other the right to their own opinions and seek to understand each other instead of jumping to conclusions.
When you address conflict instead of avoiding it, and you work through it, you’re giving the other person one of the greatest gifts you can give.
Allowing them to be authentic.
You’re showing deep respect for their views, their opinions, and their beliefs.
Because of that, the other person feels respected. And respect leads to stronger relationships.
Some people twitch at the slightest appearance of conflict. But to me, such circumstances offer opportunities to exercise our individuality and test the “stop caring what people think and live your life to the fullest” memes we keep seeing in our news feeds.
Communication is the key to so many things and I am a communicator. The other half of communication is intentionally listening.
When you enter into a discussion with the goal of first, seeking to understand the other person’s point of view, you can immediately diffuse the emotional aspect of the situation and hone in on what really matters.
Doing this takes time. It takes effort. But it is immensely gratifying to discover those areas of commonality and learn to embrace the beauty of diversity in thought and beliefs.
Someone wise said this: People usually have a pretty good reason for believing what they believe. In other words, if you knew their history, it’s understandable why they believe the way they do.
The secret to dealing with conflict is to treat it like you’re an alien in another world. You’re learning how things work. Why a human being acts a certain way.
It’s a learning experience and learning is a good thing.
So avoid the ultimatums or unhealthy responses to frustration, disappointment, or anger. Instead, take a moment, breathe… and turn the conflict into a winning opportunity. And don’t allow anyone to make you feel bad for letting your light shine. Even if every once in a while, it erupts like a fire.