Most people have a preferred strategy in case of possible conflicts and that is to avoid them at any cost. The price you pay to avoid any kind of conflict, always and at any cost, can be one of the following, just to give a few examples:
- Stress that builds up in your body and manifests itself in your behavior;
- Sleeping badly;
- Superficial relationship with other people: because you never say what you really think to avoid a conflict;
- Unfulfilled dreams: when you avoid potentially conflicting situations and in doing so you lose opportunities.
The reason so many avoid conflict is a widespread idea about conflict. The myth is that conflicts always end badly, there can be only one winner and therefore a loser. If you get into a conflict you have at best a 50% chance of being the winner.
If you believe in this myth you obviously avoid conflicts, because the road to winning is often unpleasant to take and there is a 50% chance that you will end up as a loser.
The conflict view I have just described is quite old and has never worked very well.
But what if there was another way to deal with a conflict situation?
What if there was a way you could have a confrontation that doesn't need to end badly but is instead a healing remedy and a creative and growing moment for the relationship with the other?
If you are thinking, "Well, this could apply to some marital problems but not to work conflicts," you will be interested to know that the discoveries that led to this new view of conflicts were developed in the workplace.
The essence of this different approach is that conflict is no longer seen as a battlefield but as a kind of creative playground. In a battlefield you are at war with each other, the goal is to destroy the other. In a creative playground you meet, ask questions to understand each other, you begin to see creative possibilities and solutions that lead both parties to a better place, a win-win situation.
The biggest obstacle to such a peaceful approach to conflict is emotions. When we feel in conflict, we feel strong emotions, sometimes we feel victims, sometimes we want to teach the other a lesson. Strong emotions can lead us into a tunnel where we see no other possible way. When being right is the only way we can think about the situation. When the only possible resolution of a conflict seems to be convincing the other that you are right and he / she is wrong, you are at war. The end of the conflict then requires that the other be defeated.
The way I suggest to get out of this tunnel is to take a step back, consider the conflict like something you have, as well as the strong emotion you are experiencing is something you have. Seeing yourself as a centered individual who has a conflict and has strong emotions about it, you will notice that you are so much more than all of this. Del Giudice, said "you are an infinite being who lives in a small body".
When you can take this more centered and less emotionally driven perspective, you will likely begin to feel that you have a desire, a plan for what might come out of the conflict, what you would like to see happen.
If both sides manage to reach this point, you can imagine that the conversation will already have gone from a battle to a creative endeavor.
If the other side is not open to this different approach, you can still approach the conflict in a different way, more open to possibilities, more creative. This alone could disarm the other side of the conflict and soften their reaction towards you. Since you are no longer trying to win, but rather to create a solution, it is quite difficult for the other to fight you while you are so solution oriented and open in approach. The other may very well end up losing his appetite for victory.
How to activate this different approach to conflict? The best way I can suggest is to reflect on how you experience the conflict using the following questions:
How much power do you feel you have in the conflict situation?
Do you need to change the power dynamic?
What do you need to achieve this change?
What resources are available?