There seems to be a huge misunderstanding amongst people and their relationship with conflict. Most of the time, we perceive conflict as this huge and negative stressor. It makes sense though, everyone has been in a situation where conflict has proven to be something that does not feel good, and often times results in something even bigger than the conflict itself.
The other day, I was presented with conflict from people who had no idea how to appropriately navigate it. As I got to thinking about it I realized, not many people actually know how to appropriately and effectively handle conflict.
Let’s be very clear here, conflict is essentially some type of “problem” or dissatisfaction with something that someone as.
Let’s be very clear again, the point of even bringing up conflict to be the topic of conversation is that so one can communicate their problem or dissatisfaction.
Let’s be clear one more time, if you do not communicate your problem or dissatisfaction in a way that someone can hear you, you are creating more of a problem and solving nothing.
If your relationship with conflict means that you only know how to function in it by threatening someone, making accusations about their character, trying to be in control of the conversation, or being manic/explosive, it is very unlikely that your entire intent of communicating your problem will be heard. Therefore, nothing will be accomplished.
Ultimately, humans respond in a very survivalist type of way. It’s in our nature to react and respond to every single thing with our need for survival in the back of our minds. What I mean by this is, humans cannot effectively solve ANYTHING when our language (the only way we know how to verbally communicate) is posing a threat to us.
Here’s how we can effectively and appropriately engage in conflict, so we can actually get the results we are looking for:
1. Take a minute to cool off.
When we first hear or see something that brings up a lot of emotion for us, our instinct is to extrapolate that emotion at all costs. Sitting in the discomfort of our own drama oftentimes feels too much to bear alone, but that does not mean our emotions are actually reality. This is just the initial sting of new information that may trigger us. Do not react right away. Learn to sit in your own vulnerability.
2. Instead of assuming the situation/person(s) intentions, kindly ask.
Not making assumptions is huge. Also, we are all human. We have back stories. We have trauma. We have our own emotion. The key here is to practice empathy, put our own emotion aside and try to understand where the person is coming from. A lot of the time people think everything is all about them, when really, it almost never is.
3. Ask yourself, “How will this person best hear me?”
If you cannot communicate your dissatisfaction in a way that will be understood, there is no point in even bringing it up at all. Humans do not listen nor respond well to violence, threats, or things that are meant to intentionally scare them or make them feel bad. If you do communicate your conflict in this way, you are communicating in an inappropriate way aimed to only make yourself feel better, and that will never accomplish anything. For an example, if you confront conflict in a way by saying, “If you don’t respond to me right now, I’ll get your boyfriend involved” – the person will be extremely unlikely to hear what you are saying, let alone even care due to the way you are engaging with them. It’s important to communicate in a way that will be effective, not just communicate to hear yourself talk.
4. Be solution oriented.
I’ve seen countless situations where people bring up the conflict, yet refuse to solve the conflict. If we go in to conflict with the intent of raging and just expressing our emotion, that will do nothing to solve the conflict. If we go in to the conflict with a fresh mind, we can effectively engage and ask, “How can we navigate this in a way that will allow us to work through it and find a positive solution?”.
We all have this huge fear of conflict because in history itself, time and time again, conflict as always resulted in negative things – but it doesn’t have to. Conflict can be a gateway and a path that opens doors to much more understanding, compassion, boundaries, and freedom.