Rethinking conflict

Conflict is necessary for evolution! Yes, you hear me right. There is a degree of friction that is necessary to push us out of our own comfort zone, introduce other perspectives and expand our horizon.

Imagine a world in which everyone shared the same beliefs and opinions. There would be no discussion, no disagreement or questioning and eventually very low incentive to improve or change anything.

Conflict arises when two opposing sides encounter each other, when opinions clash, when we disagree. I would argue that there is a healthy and mature way to embrace conflict, move beyond and transform it into an opportunity.

Unfortunately, the socio-cultural messages we receive i.e. in film and on TV, oftentimes promote violence as a justified means. Once a certain line is crossed, retribution is ok, hitting back is fine, violence justified. Ask yourself, where is your line? When someone disagrees with you? When your parents get insulted? When someone harms your loved ones? While you might chuckle at the first one, maybe the last one evokes a righteous yes. And that’s ok. Most of us have this line.

What if I told you, however, it is NEVER justified. 

Acting violently towards another human being is never justified, however violent they might have acted. This is how we end up in endless cycles in which hurt people hurt people that hurt people. You might go “Wait, but what if…”. No! There is literally no reason, ever. Let that sink in.

Fortunately, there are some wise, compassionate individuals and teachings that have fully realised this perspective. Remember turning the other cheek in Christianity? Buddhist understanding of Samsara Karma and compassion. The non-dualist understanding of everything being connected? But before I get sidetracked, back to conflict.

Most external conflict points back to our own internal conflict anyway. We tend to be at war with ourselves the most. Some of what I will share hence looks at you before it addresses the relational dimension of conflict.

Instead of suggesting a refined communication technique that focuses on what to say to diffuse situations, I focus on the how. The energy behind conflict and where we can direct our awareness. While NVC is beautiful once fully integrated, it requires many years of practice in my opinion not to come across as manipulative.

Before offering the tools, one more aspect to recontextualise and rethink conflict: We all enjoy conflict.

I am not talking about an unhealthy addiction to drama. This would require an entire entry of its own. Rather like we enjoy watching or engaging in competitive sports. Some of you might claim you are not competitive. I thought I wasn’t for the longest time. I denied the joy of competition as I believed it was not “nice”, preferred collaboration and togetherness. Now, however, I believe that healthy competition can lead us to become the best versions of ourselves. And so can conflict, if we know how to embrace it.

In arguments escalation is natural. It is like playing tennis, the ball goes back and forth and the quicker we go the more momentum it gets until it has a life of its own. And that is where the fun is, the energy, the acceleration and excitement.

The key problem why escalations can turn violent is an over-identification with a position or opinion. Even if we were just saying “yes” and “no” we get invested and protective. The need to be right that most of us have programmed into us trips us up. If we learned to embrace conflict or disagreement as an opportunity for learning and growth instead, we would only have engaging dialogues.

The excitement paired with identification overwrites any such thinking though. How many times have you been in an argument and after 10 minutes forgotten what started it or what your were even arguing about? Sometimes all we remember is that we disagree and that it is essential to defend one side. And then we stop listening. So the first and most important step out of conflict is to LISTEN!  

 

 

TO BE CONTINUED…

 

I hope to have given you some food for thought. Much of what I shared I address in my workshops on moving beyond conflict. It is best to receive an embodied experiential understanding of it. To feel what it is like when our systems fire up in disagreement. How truly listening and being listened to causes fundamental tangible shifts. 

Read on in the second part where I introduce some practical tips.

And also feel free to connect and ask me questions. I am happy to dialogue about this!