Conflict is an inevitable part of life. We have experience so many situations with conflicts in it. Poor interpersonal communication for most of the time become the number one factor that flares up a simple disagreement into a resentment or worse.
It is human to disagree. Conflict can either be good or be bad, the essential part is to manage them. With a good management, conflict might produce a great solution. On the contrary, with a bad management, it might be ended up as a terminal friction.
Conflict might be ended up with exhausting, stressful, broken relationships and lost of opportunities or it can deepen our connection to the people we care about. It can provoke useful conversation with people with whom we disagree. Conflict can give us the momentum and the opportunity to talk about what matters.
Most of the time the advice you get to manage the conflict is “communication“. But sometimes talking about it seems to make it worse. The other advice is “to compromise“. But it is not always easy to compromise with people who are in the same conflict. Moreover, when you are drowning in the sea of negative emotions.
I’m sure all of aforementioned advice is well-intentioned. But it treats conflict as if it’s a problem.
What if conflict isn’t a problem, what if it’s a solution.
What if it’s not negative, but full of beauty?
Conflict has the capability to transform us, our relationships, and our environment to the better. But it’s not easy to change conflict into that way. It should be started with seeing the conflict itself in the positive side. It doesn’t matter how negatively you think the conflict is, it is always possible to change that.
There are three keys coping conflict:
The first is to recognize what our conflict is really about.
Conflicts are a lot like icebergs. What we see on the surface may seem small, but what’s underneath can sink boats like Titanic to the bottom of the ocean, and if we don’t pay attention to what’s underneath our own conflicts, it can rip holes in our relationship.
So ask yourself again, is your conflict happened because of poor communication? which means no party is wrong, people in the conflict are just misunderstanding one another. Or probably the conflict happened because of selfishness?, which means everyone in the conflict doesn’t really care about the solution, all they care about is to be the winner. Or probably we are just being too sensitive?, in this case, our partners are just willing to deliver their ideas, but we overreact and take that as an offensive action, while they are actually not.
The second key is recognizing when we’re stuck.
There are moments when the solution we thought should work on the conflict is just not working at all. The things that gets us stuck there is justification. Justification means believing that we are blameless. And it’s so seductive, because in conflict if I’m blameless, then I don’t have to do anything to change. I’m not the one that needs to change. Somebody else needs to change. As if we have the authority to judge others. And this keeps us stuck.
Feeling on the right side might feel nice in the moment, but in the end it is pretty dissatisfying. It keeps us doing the same conflicts over and over again. And nothing changes. What happens in the conflict depends on what the people in the conflict decide to do. Sometimes our conflict stuck because we never really try to find out the solution. All we’ve done is trying to win the argument. So it is all turns out into an attack and counter attack game, and what matters remains unaddressed.
If you could realize that you are stuck, you could find a different way with different solution. Like when we hear offensive words in the argument. We can start to think what is the information behind the attack. It might a feedback that you need the most.
Sometimes in conflict we are actually being attacked and sometimes we just feel like we are being attacked, but the point is the same in either way. Attack is a strategy to try to deliver hope, expectation, and solution. And working in conflict is one that meets the needs of both sides.
The third key is to speak responsibly.
People talk. A lot. Studies show that on average, women speak around 20,000 words a day while men speak about 7,000 words a day. With everyone doing so much talking, sometimes it’s hard to be aware of what we are actually saying and how it can affect others. This needs to be changed. From now on, we need to be more cautious of our word choice and start speaking responsibly.
Yes communication still one of the keys to overcome conflict. But without a good communication, our relationship might become worse. Communication means learning to ask, listen and express. It’s not enough that we deliver what’s inside our mind. What matters is how we do it. So stop telling stories that end with a period. Start asking questions. The kind of questions that help us to understand what underneath the surface of the conflict, to help us understand the emotions and needs.
After we ask, we can listen. Not listening to find mistake of others, but to listen to what’s really important to hear their hopes and expectations. It means practicing to listen for what people trying to say, even if they are saying it very badly. After we listen, we can express. Not to express anger, but to to express what we feel, what we want, and what’s important to us without letting our emotions consume us.
The conversation where we start ask, listen and express is so crucial, because it creates empathy and a different type of conversation.
In summary, something that we need to keep in mind is that there is no such thing as a conflict-free work environment. Nor should there be. It could be happened with your friends, coworkers, partners, even with your family.
Conflict is a normal and healthy part of relating to other people — and we should actually be disagreeing more at work. Disagreements, when managed well, have lots of positive outcomes: creative friction can lead to new ideas and solutions; being challenged gives you opportunities to learn and grow; working through conflict together makes you feel closer to people; and when you’re not afraid to disagree at work, you’ll likely be happier in your job.