|Sent on:||Friday, May 18, 2012 4:50 PM|
Conflict Management - Part I/2
Conflict is there from the day we are born - the baby crying for milk or a nappy change, is in conflict! Any time we are in need, we are in conflict, in a constant pursuit of having that need met. Accept this fact, and you end the struggle, and anything that comes thereafter is in fact a bonus!
Definition of Conflict: The actual or perceived opposition of needs, values, wishes or perceptions resulting in stress or tension. (The Justice Institute of British Colombia, Canada).
We work so hard to make our lives proper and perfect that we never have the time to stop and enjoy the beauty and splendor of what we have created. This creates a constant tension in life. We give this pattern many different names; stress, dysfunction, addiction or passive aggressive. We prefer to label the sickness, for we feel better justifying our poor mental health and inability to tolerate life's cycles. But the point is, we are not at peace with ourselves. We do not know where we are heading yet we speed up the runaway freight train we have created. This type of psychological instability is the root cause for restlessness and frustration, resulting in conflicts of various types.
There is a Zen story about a peasant farmer who owned a beautiful horse desired by others. One day it disappeared. When all the villagers remarked on his bad luck, he calmly replied, "Maybe, maybe not." A few days later the horse returned, leading a herd of fine wild horses. This time the villagers remarked, “How lucky you are”. “Maybe, maybe not!” he replied. A week later, his only son was thrown and crippled while training the horses. When the villagers again commented on his bad luck, he calmly replied, "Maybe, maybe not." Within a week, the emperor declared a frivolous war and all young able men, save the farmer's son, were forced into battle and none returned. The moral of the story, nothing is as it seems!
What's my first response to a conflict situation? Is it to back off or move head on? Is it a difficulty or an opportunity? Do I fall into the blame game, or do I take responsibility? Do I fall into old patterns of behaviour or do I take time to create new ones. Do I withdraw, get aggressive, become passive or go into denial? Whatever is my response to conflict will be a clear indication of how I deal with a conflict situation.
If for example my response to conflict is to pretend nothing is wrong, then I will deny the conflict. If for example my response to conflict is to cry out of self-pity, then I will feel incapable or ill-equipped to tackle the conflict. If my response is to simply complain without taking action, then I will ignore the real issue of conflict. If my response to conflict is that it is normal and part and parcel of life, then I will work towards finding a resolution
Our lives are not dependent on whether or not we have conflict. It is what we do with the conflict that makes the difference. How we perceive conflict is all in our mind. When we oppose we are in separation. When both parties see the same picture, there is connectedness. The art of conflict management is for all parties involved to be able to see the same picture from various different perspectives and to appreciate it. It is when I insist that what I see is the only view that conflict begins.
Conflict often pushes us into the survival mode. When we perceive ourselves as separate and disconnected from those around us, there becomes a feeling of 'you and me' and a sense that there isn't enough for both of us. This perception of scarcity develops a mindset of survival, and people spend a significant portion of their time operating in this mode. There is fear that there is not enough money, energy or resources to go around. Therefore the tendency is to get all we can for us and to keep the doors barred because someone is always trying to get into the ‘cookie jar’. In a scarcity context, the experience is one of tremendous energy output, but the net result is mere survival. Like swimming in a strong current, all of our energy seems to be used in maintaining our position or staying afloat.
Once we fall into this 'survival' trap, competition begins. We think of conflict as a contest and life becomes a big scoreboard. It’s as though we need to be gaining points through ‘winning’ conflicts, as though we need a certain amount of points under our belt to get to heaven or a better place! The adrenalin is on and we have to win!
Conflict is not a contest. Conflict just is. We choose whether to make it a contest in which there are winners and losers.
Have you ever been upset when your colleagues don’t share your point of view, or the kids rebel at your ideas, or your spouse does the opposite of what you expect? What is your knee-jerk reaction? Is it your fear of losing? The fear of being wrong? The need to prove yourself? The EGO under attack? When conflict becomes a win-lose contest in our minds, we immediately try to “win”. The big question is, was there really a contest in the first place?
Stay tuned for part two for more tips on how to manage conflict.
It’s time… this week to observe yourself - how much you act out of fear and how much you act out of love. Do you constantly find yourself looking at the scoreboard? Trying to out-do the other person? If so, let go of the tension. Choose to learn from the lesson – to build bridges and make everyone a winner instead of running off alone with the trophy!
"If one throws salt at thee thou wilt receive no harm unless thou hast sore places."
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