Conflict is inevitable.
You know this, right?
I mean – if you’ve been alive more than 11 minutes, you’ve probably experienced conflict. Your conflict may happen within your family, at your workplace, or among friends. Plus, none of us are blind to the societal and global conflict around us.
Is it possible to have conflict without leaving a trail of casualties in our wake?
I think it is.
Let me suggest a few foundational ideas. We’ve already established that conflict will happen. There is no way to avoid conflict in life. Knowing that, we must realize that energy is created when conflict happens. Normally that energy is negative, resulting in drama. What would happen if we harnessed that energy with compassion and used it to produce creative resolution?
Instead of struggling against the other person, struggle with them to pursue an effective solution.
The roles we play when engaging in drama have been defined as the persecutor, rescuer, and victim. You may be playing the persecutor if you find yourself resorting to criticism and accusations, believing that sometimes you just have to “show them who’s boss.” Rescuers are chronic helpers – believing that if others would just listen to their ideas and let them help, all will be ok. You may identify as the victim – those who over-adapt, internalize criticism and sacrifice their own self worth in order to keep peace and avoid conflict.
I don’t know about you, but none of those roles are very appealing.
Do I identify with one of those roles? Yup.
I’m a rescuer – through and through.
I just didn’t realize how unhealthy it is.
Now I am learning that when I see conflict coming, I can choose to not engage in it.
Would you like to know how to do this?
It’s not for the faint of heart.
Approaching conflict with compassion is difficult. It means being vulnerable, pushing to move forward when it feels more natural to stay where you are, and holding others accountable while staying accountable yourself.
When you are open to others, you lose the victim mentality. By admitting how you are feeling and asking others how they feel, you acknowledge that you are both worthwhile. We are allowed to have an emotional response to conflict. Acknowledging it is the first step toward compassionate conflict resolution.
Conflicts require something to change in order to reach resolution. Ideas aren’t likely to drop out of the sky! But asking great questions and gathering ideas and opinions will remind you that you are capable of reaching a solution. By celebrating small wins as you resolve conflict and leveraging individual strengths, you’ll be reminded that you can work through these issues.
It’s tempting to resort back to victim mode and just give up during conflict. Persistence is all about seeing things through – but doing so with integrity, humility, and respect. Stay focused, and accept responsibility. Then work together toward a solution.
Start with openness, every time. We are wired in such a way that we can’t think clearly or engage effectively until the simple fact that emotions are involved is addressed. But don’t stop here, either. Don’t get stuck focusing on feelings all day. Move toward using your resources to address the conflict, and don’t stop until it’s resolved in the best way possible. Continue to be accountable for your behavior, and accountable to others.
The next time conflict arises, I want to use these tools to avoid drama and compassionately struggle with the other person toward a solution.
How will this change the conflict in your life?
The framework for this post is based on Nate Regier’s recently released book, Conflict Without Casualties. For a much more in-depth understanding of the concepts, I highly recommend you read it!