“Conflict is the doorway to intimacy.” I recently heard this statement and couldn’t have agreed more.
Conflict is also the window to growth. Why then do so many people avoid it? It’s because they don’t have the right mindset or toolbox for handling conflict. It is absolutely impossible to be in relationship with people and not have friction. But, it is this friction that creates the intimacy and growth necessary for success and progress.
Conflict is good. It is an opportunity to bring clarity and unity to a situation. It can even lead to better solutions and creative ideas! Unhealthy conflict is, well…unhealthy. Unhealthy conflict happens when two or more people are no longer willing (or able) to see the other’s point of view. This creates a win/lose mindset where everyone eventually loses.
Conflict is good. It is an opportunity to bring clarity and unity to a situation.
If we see conflict as an opportunity to clarify, we can enter into it with a different perspective. This doesn’t mean it will be easy or fun. It does mean that you will face real issues and have real conversations. Decide if it’s healthy or not by considering these points.
CONSIDER IN CONFLICT:
- Do I have good intentions?
Look in the mirror. There is one common denominator in ALL of your conflict –and that is YOU. Be aware of your emotions, your thoughts and your actions. Do you have good intentions? Do you want good to come from this tension? Are you thinking and behaving in ways that are going to lead to good outcomes? If not, reassess your intentions and bring them back in line.
- Do they have good intentions?
Do you know the intentions of the person you are in conflict with, really? If you have an assumption about their intentions is it possible that you have perceived them wrongly? Most people don’t wake up ready to offend and hurt others. I haven’t met anyone who enters into a relationship or conversation saying “what can I do to drive so-and-so crazy today?” A part of the healthy conflict mindset is to get clear on the intentions of others. Ask them. Get feedback from others. Always err on the side of assuming good intentions; it leads to less problems and fewer emotionally charged (and wrong) assumptions.
- Have I been offended, wounded or bothered by this person? (Either recently, often or intensely?)
What have you experienced with this person that may be adding tension and frustration to the current situation? Maybe it happened recently so your hurt is fresh. Maybe it happens often. If so, are you experiencing a bit of the “straw that broke the camel’s back” syndrome? Is their offense a 2 on a scale of 1-10 but, because there has been so many challenges over time, are you reacting to the collective set of tensions? Or, was the offense particularly intense?
- Is there a pattern to this friction?
Take time to evaluate the conflict that you are in. Is there a pattern? Are there similarities to the challenges? What do you notice and does this pattern shed light into either why this is happening or why it is affecting you?
- What was my trigger(s)?
Most of the time we can identify a trigger that pulled us into the space. It may be what someone said, whey they did, how they did it. Each of us have personal conflict triggers—things that make us more likely to experience tension or enter into conflict (healthy or unhealthy). Let me share with you a few of mine.
When I sense that someone is being taken advantage of, especially someone who may not have the tools or ability to defend themselves, this triggers me. A lack of respect (for me or others) is a conflict trigger. Whining or complaining can be a conflict trigger for me. Get the gist?
- Where are they coming from?
Similar to asking if they have good intentions, this is to ask yourself where this person might be coming from. What might their perspective be? Why are they thinking and behaving this way?
- What does good look like?
Do you even know what good would look like in this situation? Take time out to think about this. What would be the ideal outcome?
- What grace is required?
Not every conflict situation will require you to extend grace to the other party. However, ask yourself, is there grace required in this situation? If so, how much? When? How often?
- Is a direct confrontation necessary?
Do you think there is a confrontation that will be required? Do you believe the issue should be brought directly to the other person? Not every conflict needs direct confrontation. If you work through this list, there may be plenty of situations where you determine that your own perception and your own offense is actually where the conflict lives, and hopefully where it will die.
If you can apply these considerations to your conflict, you may gain clarity. Get the facts, understand the other side and work towards a win for everyone. That’s the way to approach conflict.
Next week’s post will deal with the 7 ways to FIGHT – fair that is.