Conflict as an opportunity for learning. In this perspective of conflict we accept it as an inevitable part of life, even welcoming it as an opening into a new understanding of a situation.
Conflict is the beginning of consciousness - M.Esther Harding
We see any difficult feelings or actions associated with a conflict as symbols that we need a new way of responding to the situation or person.
We acknowledge the fear and other difficult feelings associated with the conflict as an internal signal that something needs to be reconsidered and engaged with in order to create that new way of responding........ instead of taking actions that numb us to those feelings as we do in the ineffective responses to conflict, where conflict is treated as a competition or as a problem to be avoided.
When a thought hurts, that's the signal that it isn't true.
Instead of reacting to conflict situations - which basically means we have only one response available to us and we do it without thinking, without awareness, without mindfulness - we can learn to consider our actions and create choices in how we respond.
To learn that there is more than one response available to us empowers us to have a sense of control over our lives, to lose the sense of 'victimhood' that can easily arise from conflicts. To lose the fear, isolation, helplessness, frustration associated with victimhood.
And when there is no longer a victim, there is also not a 'perpetrator' and we can start to consider the person with whom we are in conflict as a 'co-respondent' in the situation, someone with whom we can co-operate to resolve the situation..... Even if they do not want to do so and still respond as if the conflict is a problem or a competition.
If our perception of them has changed through seeing them, not as a perpetrator of an act upon us but as simply another person, experiencing similar thoughts and feelings to us - confusion, fear, isolation, anger etc. - our response will not be one that escalates the destructiveness of the situation as there will be no competition to win, no need to get allies, to bring in a 'bigger stick', to be 'proved right'.
Byron Katie tells it like it is...again:
It has been a life's work to make our partner wrong. Then when we enter inquiry, we lose. It's a tremendous shock. And it turns out to be grace. Winning is losing. Losing is winning. It all turns around.
Ultimately, whether the person with whom we are in conflict wishes to resolve it or not becomes irrelevant. All conflict is inside ourselves and how we approach it determines whether we will resolve it and learn from it and grow from it or whether we will be 'saddled' with it and carry its burden for years and possibly a lifetime.
Many conflicts still exist in people long after the person with whom they are in dispute has died, or moved away. Where else can conflict be but inside ourselves when this is the case?
Birds and Bullies is a Newsletter that gives an example of this approach from the world of birds.
And The 3 Cheers for Conflict - Learning, Connection and Insight discusses the approach further.
Awareness of ourselves and how we are responding to conflict is the key to effective conflict resolution, effective communication and (re-)connection with others.
Awareness of ourselves transforms our responses from being reactions to being chosen actions.
We are empowered through our choices.
We take ownership of our thoughts and feelings and actions instead of seeing them as being 'caused' by another person or by a situation or experience.
Here is a webinar Alan did recently for ASTD - American Society for Training and Development on Conflict Management Skills and Practices for a More Engaged Workforce which uses the '3-Cheers for Conflict' of Learning, Connection and Insight described on this page......
Get The Guide to the Principles of Effective Communication and Conflict Resolution e-book - now available!
If you like the approach described on this site that supports the resolution of conflict and promotes effective, mindful communication, you may want to visit Alan's organisation website at CAOS Conflict Management.
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CAOS Conflict Management provides:
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Here's a Handbook to help you practise more effective communication and to review and improve how you are responding to unresolved conflict:
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Train to be a Mediator with CAOS Conflict Management in London UK