Often when people hear the word conflict they cringe and conjure images of chaos and violence, but this is not the full picture when it comes to conflict. When something is pushed to the extreme is tends to be destructive, but conflict can actually be constructive when approached in moderation. The reality is that conflict is part of life, and to be human is to experience conflict in some form or another.
The first step to releasing yourself from the fear of conflict is to recognize that conflict is neither good nor bad; it is simply part of our life whether we like it or not. Conflict can act as a catalyst pushing us deeper one way or the other. It can lead to an opportunity to transform things into something positive or it can blow things up and make a big mess. If we follow the rules of a fair fight, we are much more likely to move conflict in a constructive direction. However, if it is a free for all, we might dig ourselves deeper into the mess. It is up to us what we do with the conflict and how we choose to approach the inevitable conflicts that life will present.
Here are some simple rules that can assist you in bringing out the best from conflict:
1. Do not be afraid of the conflict. It is an opportunity to work through something and learn how to hold onto yourself.
2. Remember to listen. Use both ears and do twice as much listening as talking. You gain knowledge through listening.
3. Value the other person's right to have an opinion, even if you disagree with it. Validate the other person's perspective and let them know that their thoughts and feelings make sense. Once somebody feels heard they are much more likely to hear you.
4. Stop blaming! There is already enough blame to go around, so even if you are being blamed by the other person avoid the useless trap of blaming back. Two wrongs do not make a right.
5. Remain respectful even in the face of disrespect. Manage your emotions. Do not get caught in the endless loop of taking things personally and then lash back in hurt and anger. This will derail you from the opportunity to learn and move forward. Set the bar at respect and stick to it.
6. Own your own judgments. Try to remain self-aware even in the heat of an emotional argument. Learn from what you are contributing to the dispute. This is your journey and your lesson and if you miss this information you will remain unaware. Do not be too proud to apologize, as an authentic apology can liberate everyone involved. This is the opportunity for conflict to become the vehicle for a deeper and richer relationship.
7. Be realistic with your goals. Do not set yourself up for disappointment and frustration by thinking you can resolve everything and anything. In the end, whether we agree or not, we all just need to live and let live.
I encourage people to let go of the fear, and approach conflict is a reasonable and respectful manner. If we try to avoid it, we just might find ourselves lost in conflict all the time. In order to draw boundaries and speak our truths the rules of fair fighting can actually help us move towards a more authentic and successful life.
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