Conflict as a Catalyst for Transformative Growth
The mere mention of conflict often evokes a sense of dread. Yet, conflict isn't inherently negative; it's simply change knocking at the door. The stress arises when parties are entrenched in their viewpoints, unable to hear each other.
The Space Between Stimulus and Reaction
In both professional and personal settings, I view conflict not as an obstacle but as an opportunity for transformative growth. The first step is to create a pause between stimulus and reaction. This brief moment allows you to respond constructively rather than react impulsively.
Let's introduce the idea of "healthy conflict"—the capacity to consider differing opinions without attacking the person behind them. This form of conflict is essential for innovation. It's why diverse teams are invaluable; they bring a variety of perspectives that can lead to groundbreaking solutions.
The Unlearned Skill of Healthy Conflict
Unfortunately, the art of healthy conflict is seldom taught. Our approach to conflict often mirrors what we observed in our families growing up. If we witnessed conflict avoidance or unhealthy confrontation, we're likely to repeat those patterns in our work and personal relationships.
So, how does one engage in healthy conflict? The answer is simple, but the execution can be hard. It requires staying grounded and genuinely listening to the other person. Only when people feel heard will they be open to hearing you.
Conflict as Teacher
Conflict serves as a teacher, reflecting your beliefs, ego, and assumptions. Acknowledging your role in a conflict can be both humbling and enlightening. I recently experienced this with a friend who visited me. She lives alone and enjoys quiet. The constant activity in our home overwhelmed her, leading to tension between us. Fortunately, our commitment to our friendship allowed us to navigate the conflict respectfully, skillfully and quickly. That little bump in our road only deepened our relationship.
There's an adage "The teacher appears when the student is ready." If you find yourself surrounded by difficult people all the time, consider it an invitation to examine your own behavior or beliefs.
There is a saying, “hurt people hurt people” rings true. When I encounter someone “difficult”, I see a person struggling. I envision them as a once-joyful child who lost their way.
How many 'difficult' people do you have in your life? What beliefs do you hold onto tightly? How might you look at the “difficult person” differently? How might you show self-compassion and extend compassion to them?