Conflict is often treated as something odd, extraordinary. Something that should not happen. Conflict is as natural as it gets. Any relationship is bound to have at least one conflict. Does it mean that the relationship is doomed or that the other person is evil? Absolutely not! We cannot expect different people to see eye to eye on everything. Some argue that’s where tolerance should step in, by accepting of the other’s differences. But it does not matter how tolerant we are, one day we all face conflict; with a family member, a friend, a work colleague, a spouse…you name it!
Now some of us are pretty good at keeping it inside and just “accept” people the way they are. However, it does not prevent getting hurt and keeping it inside only builds up frustration, that if not dealt with, will only lead to either taking our distances from the other person or exploding and saying things that are beyond our actual feelings about the matter. The problem causing the conflict needs to be dealt with.
The good news, however, is that conflict can be an opportunity, if handled well. An opportunity for a “realer”, if not deeper relationship. In my not-so-long life journey, I learnt a few techniques that helped me with conflict resolution. The list is by no means exhaustive but can be a good start. To simplify matters, let’s consider a case where two people are in conflict.
- First, both parties need to be willing to make the situation better. It is the base of the pyramid. If they are not, nothing can be done.
- Second, conflict resolution requires humility. We need to listen first. Something that I often do is to prepare myself for the difficult conversation ahead. That is why strong intent on conflict resolution is crucial, it strengthens our resolve to make things right.
- The third one is a personal favorite of mine. Choosing words wisely. People often mistake saying what first comes to their mind with honesty. We should choose our words wisely without compromising on the message. Getting it across as nicely as possible always pays off.
- Last but certainly not least, is to be ready to apologize. You see, every story is like a coin: it has two sides. A conflict, especially built up, can have many sources (The things we thought the other did on purpose when in reality they weren’t even thinking about us!!lol You know what I mean). But still the other party was hurt, whether it was done intentionally or not. After apologizing to have hurt others unknowingly, we should simply request that next time they just ask us what we meant before taking it so much to heart. When apologizing for a mistake, intentional or otherwise, it’s always good to remember that owning up to our mistakes does NOT make us weaker. However, tt requires true courage.
Somebody said something about an opportunity?? Well, Conflict is an opportunity for change and growth. Yes, nobody is perfect. But that is not an excuse to keep making the same mistakes over and over again. So with a new perspective on conflicts, let’s make good use of these opportunities that we are given more often than we would like to learn about ourselves, possibly things we didn’t know and try to grow. This is where humility does its biggest work, to allow for the possibility that we need to change. The will gives us the courage to try and do better. Otherwise, what’s the point of conflict resolution (the key word here being resolution) if we are going to keep falling into the same trap over and over again??
A small tip for the end: It’s important to avoid involving too many people. If we need advice, we may need to talk to one person or two (we should choose wisely again, our relationship may depend on it). The more people know, the more the conflict grows and blows out of proportion.
Life is all about relationships, a concept that I have been trying hard to understand lately. They are all that remains after all is done. Let’s not waste an opportunity to be right with our neighbors.
Dominique I. Kalisa