When I was a kid, I was told a story about elephant and blind men.
Six blind men were asked to observe an object that they had no idea about. They chose one leader to listen and make conclusion, while the other 5, observing the object in different position. The leader asked, ‘What is an elephant like?’ and they began to touch the object. One of them said: ‘It is like a pillar.’ This blind man had only touched its leg. Another man said, ‘The elephant is like a fan.’ This person had only touched its ears. The third man said, ‘No, it’s a wall.’ This man touch the belly. The fourth who touched the trunk said, ‘ No way, it is round and sharp, it must be a spear.’ The last man said, ‘Yes it is round, but too smooth for a spear, and it keeps moving. It must be a snake.’ This last man only touched the tail.
The leader was confused. None of the information matched one to another. Thus, he failed to make a conclusion.
The story above tells us how the same data when it is seen from different perspectives might be interpreted differently. None of the men were lying, but none of them were telling the truth either. They were right in their own little observation.
In the real world, that case is not happening to the blind men only. Data representation might lead misinterpretation to anyone.
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?