Whilst a lot of times in life we of course get on well with those around us; there are, naturally, times where we do not see eye to eye, and conflict occurs. It could be in the home, when you might have different ideas on how to parent; in work, when you don’t feel that a colleague is pulling their weight; even in sport, when you feel hard done by at a coach’s decision to not play your child on the starting team. The natural response for us all is to go into our own corner and come out fighting, seeking to protect our own standpoint on the issue. This is wholly understandable, but as most of us do not play out our conflicts in a boxing ring, it is not useful.
What if, rather than seeing the other party as being the enemy in the opposite corner, instead we thought about situations like this as being ones where we can either help to maintain the conflict or help to resolve it? So, in our own heads, it then becomes less about ‘I’m right, and you’re wrong’, and more about ‘I need to ensure that, for my part, what I’m doing is moving us towards resolution and not actually participating in the conflict’. What would that feel like? How much would it help make things more palatable in your own head, when you come up against challenging and difficult situations in life?
It would actually help to make it a much nicer place between your own ears, when the focus shifts to ensuring that no matter what approach the other person takes, your own strategy is to make every effort to resolve rather than participate in conflict. What happens here is that, instead of your head being filled with irritation, anger, resentment; it is absorbed with the task of finding a way through whatever this disagreement is, and that makes for a much nicer mindset.
So, the next time you want to let your teenager go to a festival, and your partner is adamant that it is not going to happen; drop the old habit of fuming (inwardly and outwardly) about how stubborn/ old-fashioned/ conservative/ out of touch they are, and ask yourself what would be the most useful way to find a common ground on the issue. Immediately, this focus shifts your mood state to one of openness and interest in resolving the disagreement. In itself, that makes life easier for you, but it also makes sure that you are not stoking the fire and participating in the conflict. Once one person puts the metaphorical gloves down and takes a different approach, the other person cannot argue alone, so it calls a halt to any un-useful negative interactions.
Let me be clear; this is not about letting go of your viewpoint or about giving in and just going along with whatever the other person wants. It is about making a decision to not add petrol to the fire, and to not help turn an existing difference of opinion into a bigger situation. It is about choosing to express your initial feelings with a rant in peace on your own, but then coming back to the situation solely with the focus of finding the way forward. This way, you get out of the habit (that we all so often engage in) of wasting time engaging in stoking the fire, when we could be much better engaged in seeking resolution.
“Conflict cannot survive without your participation” ~ Wayne Dyer