Conflicts are temporary. Children know intrinsically that conflicts are inevitable and transient in our lives. We adults often forget.
The other day I watched my daughter fight with another child on the playground over a couple of sand toys. The battle for the sand bucket and spade was fierce and brutal – punches flew, screams emerged until we broke them apart.
The adults around were all nervous for a long time after, watching for a fight that needed any intervention, meanwhile the kids had long forgotten about it. Once we broke them apart, they promptly proceeded to hold hands, climb up the big blue slide backwards and then tumbling back down down, giggling, as we adults watched nervously.
Many of us have learned to hold on to conflicts, grudges, hurts and disagreements long after the inciting incident has dissipated. A lot of this emotional baggage clogs up our consciousness and hampers our ability to think, learn, function and live.
It also hampers our ability to let go of the negativity that often surrounds conflicts. Most importantly, it costs us the opportunity to take advantage of the learning that ensues whenever we are caught up in the middle of a conflict.
Opportunity for change
Conflicts aren’t just opportunities for learning, they are also opportunities to bring about change. Often, we put up with things that we don’t necessarily agree with or enjoy.
When a conflict arises, that’s probably the first thing that comes to our mind. We recount the reasons why the person is wrong or why the situation makes us unhappy. But rather than merely complaining, what if we use that interaction as a medium of communication in order to change that thing we don’t like, or to improve something we think could be done better?
In order to use conflicts as an opportunity for change, however, we need to think about how we will position ourselves.
3 Proven Steps to Positioning Yourself Right
Think. Anticipate. Execute.
An unnamed entity in my family is really good at positioning themselves whenever they anticipate that a conflict will arise out of a particular situation. While the rest of us go into any conflict situation unarmed, often unaware, this person is able to anticipate the events with such acquity that it almost looked like magic to me. Until I tried it.
The first few times this happened, I was awkward and unsure, but the more I did it, I realized how this was a learned skill like any other. So how exactly does it work?
Assess the situation and brainstorm the outcomes that could happen.
The first few times, you might have to sit down and list all the possibilities with actual pen and paper. As you get better with it however, you will be able to do it promptly in your head.
The purpose of this step is to train your brain to hone in on the possibilities of the situation as they relate to the outcome that you want.
Anticipation is not just anticipating the other’s actions, but also finding a common thread that ties your own goal into the situation.
Going back to my family member, they often word their proposals in a very careful, planned way so as to sound like the course of action they want is in our mutual interest even though it may be benefiting them the most. While some may consider this manipulative, the fact remains, that not many of us want to hear the cold, hard, conflict-ridden and harsh truth. Most of us would rather get along and avoid conflict.
Afterall, what is more important- to get along and resolve the issue in an amicable way (that also happens to benefits you), or to feel a sense of empowerment because you were “right” and you showed the other person a ‘truth’ or two about life.
Remember, truth and correctness are subjective. In any human interaction, your truth will always be slightly different from mine. Your sense of right and wrong will be different too. Your truth is just as true to you as mine is to me.
So instead of being hard headed about what you perceive to be “true” why not focus on a solution that is both amicable and beneficial?
Once you’ve done the mental work of preparing for an imminent conflict, it is time to execute.
In order to overcome conflict, your delivery must be authentic, if nothing else. Often, this above mentioned family member will try so hard to convince me that helping them or doing something is in my own interest, that it turns me off from the whole sordid affair and I end up saying no just for the principle of it.
No one likes to be manipulated. If people see through your ruse to get them to do something you don’t want to do, its game over. You’ve lost their precious trust because everything you say, for the rest of the interaction, they will view through a lens of suspicion.
You want to position yourself in the best way possible so when conflict arises, you’re armed and ready to get the outcome that you desire.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series.