Independently of our cultural background, our country of origin or our personality, conflict is usually seen as negative. We even name troublemakers those prone to conflicts.
If you think about the last time you had a conflict with someone – at work or in your personal sphere – most probably you don’t even remember anymore how it started. All the sudden, you are in a middle of a discussion grasping for arguments and defending your opinion with tooth and nail. There were perhaps screams or accusations thrown around and a sense of loss in the end. Despite who felt they won, truth is there is never a winner in these situations. How could there be? In such scenario, people are pulling themselves in opposite directions, trying hard to keep their rational even when emotions have already taken over. Even when sometimes they are just seeking to be accepted and comforted. They have stopped listening, rather they focus only on their own narrative.
Thereby, is conflict inevitable in human relationships? And if that is the case, does it mean conflict is always a bad sign?
By defining conflict as disagreeing, having a different perspective or opposite opinions about something; it becomes clear that getting in an argument is part of human nature. We all have a need to feel heard and understood, to uphold our principles and our ideas, to share our perspectives. Though does it have to lead to such a clash that we feel attacked or damage the other? Can we learn from conflict? Can we grow through it?
In case you feel up for it, picture yourself during one of the last arguments you had. Could have been with a colleague or with a family member. Where are you? Perhaps in a virtual meeting or walking outside. How are you feeling? What kind of day are you having? More important than the words being exchanged, are the emotions getting in the way. Try to separate yourself from your emotions. They do not control you; they are not YOU. What do you really want to say? What would you like the other person to understand or know about you? Before you go ahead, breathe deeply and focus on what the other person is saying, beyond words. Are you listening carefully? What is that person trying to tell you?
Now start the conversation, this time focusing on the message you want to deliver. Make it clear, straightforward. Speak openly, concisely, with confidence, leaving aside any assumptions. Ensure that you listen, the same way you appreciate being listen to and understood. Be open, from a place of non-judgment and non-accusation. What is the outcome? Do you notice any differences? What has changed?
Going back to the initial question: Is conflict with others always a bad sign? Can one evolve and grow through conflict? Though conflict is rarely the best way to communicate; when inevitable, we should be able to recognize its relevance instead of avoiding or ignoring it. Perhaps next time, rather than having a major fight, you’ll be ready to deal with the matter at hand more constructively.