Before we begin, It’s important to understand what does Conflict means to us.
Let me give you a brief exercise that you can do right now. Take out a pen and paper and jot down 3 emotions that come to your mind when you think of conflict. Now, step away from your computer/phone and finish this exercise.
Ok, I will safely assume that none of those 3 emotions feature a positive feeling. Am I right?
⦁ Frustration
⦁ Anger
⦁ Resentment
⦁ Judgment
⦁ Defensive
⦁ Hurtful
⦁ Meaningless
These are some of the most common feelings associated with the word and I don’t blame you if you have these on your notepad.
So, why did the term Conflict get a bad rap over the years? Why does it inherently discourage individuals from using it as a tool for healthier, engaging relationships? While there is no one-word answer to this question, it entails societal influence to a large extent. We have been told for decades now that conflict is uneasy, creates discomfort and should be swept under the rug.
Yes, conflict is on the other extreme of the spectrum of communication but, it is not the villain. In fact, it is the opposite, a very effective tool for communication. An opportunity in disguise where real progress in strengthening a relationship can be achieved.
Here are some ways we can view conflict as a tool to bridge the communication gap.
Laying the groundwork for resolution:
Agreed, there has been a disagreement. But what gave way for it to happen? Details like what happened, when and where will give both parties a chance to recreate context to further discuss. This is also where any discrepancies can be cleared out. One rule to follow is to keep emotions in check and not get carried away. The best is to do this when you are calm and ready. Don’t force it and if you want to, take your time. The idea is to respond and not react.
The shift in perspective:
Conflicts give us the opportunity to approach a problem in a manner that is non-confrontational, unlike popular belief. The trick is to recognise and use this opportunity and not fall into the trap of who is right and who is wrong.
It is here we understand the power of ‘I statements’. Using ‘I’ statements, like I felt disrespected, I felt hurt, I would appreciate it if you would… these are statements that help both parties involved lay out their feelings in a manner they weren’t able to earlier. Similarly, the person to whom these feelings are being conveyed gets the time and space to truly understand how the other person felt. Using accusatory tones or starting by placing blame only fuels the conflict further, leaving little to no room for resolution.
Prepare for a deep-clean:
Granted, conflicts open up a can of worms, the motions, and the emotions are not exactly pleasant. But, get past the anger and you will see the real feeling that is buried deep down. Fear of abandonment, failure, incompetence, there could be a myriad of other reasons but, digging deeper allows you to address the feeling and do something about it. More often than not, the fear is one-sidedly residing in the head of the person experiencing it. Talking about such feelings can help clear the air and pave the way for a peaceful resolution.
Let us unshackle from mindsets that don’t allow us to grow. Viewing conflict in a negative light is antiquated. If used in the right manner with the right support, conflicts create a pathway to enhanced communication.
Let’s not expect to have relationships that are conflict-free. It is perfectly normal to have conflicts. Instead of getting worked up over it and burying the feelings associated with it, try to use it to benefit you and those around you. It will take time to unlearn our definition of a conflict and the way we feel about it as it has been ingrained in us to take a step back when things go wrong but, little by little you can veer away from this mindset and develop a fresh outlook to discover how conflicts can truly empower you.