My title may have caught your attention.
You see, I do not believe that all conflict is bad. There are many good things that will not happen without conflict.
If you are one of the many who believe that everything should always be quiet and everyone should always get along, you may be living in a bubble. Truthfully, we all different and therefore think differently. Reason enough for conflict right there.
Some of our more spiritual friends view all conflict as somehow demonic rather that simply humans communicating. This is giving the devil way too much credit.
Just because there are no vocal disagreements does not mean there is no conflict. Everyone may appear happy or at peace- but it may only be a cover. In fact, much stress is caused when people are not allowed to express their negative feelings.
I can think of 3 good things that happen through conflict, 3 signs that conflict has become destructive, and 3 things we could do to improve the outcome of our conflicts.
- Conflict forces us to think. Each of us sees life through our own colored glasses. It’s called “perspective”. We assume if no one differs with us, that the way we see it must be right. If we assume we are always right, when disagreement occurs my immediate response is that something must be wrong with “them” and not me. The first thing we should realize in conflict is that there are other ways to look at life rather than just our own.
- Conflict actually- and surprisingly- brings us together. When we disagree with honestly, we see another’s heart. Sometimes we learn how they really feel. The emotion expressed may simply be their passionate view on an issue. Most of us are rather insensitive to the feelings of others. We just don’t notice things about people, their feelings and views- until they are upset. Then it is “shock treatment” for us. This awareness can bring understanding between us and of course brings us much closer together.
- Conflict allows for new shared ideas. The old expression comes to mind, “Two heads are better than one.” When we disagree, we can re-evaluate, compromise or adjust. No one is 100% wrong or right in any situation. It is often through the energy of conflict that some of the greatest breakthroughs come in relationships. Imagine if our best thoughts could be joined with the best thoughts of another!
However sometimes conflict becomes destructive.
- Conflict becomes destructive when people stop talking about the difference and start attacking each other verbally or physically; or when the emotion primarily becomes anger and the other person is viewed as the enemy.
- Conflict becomes destructive when it becomes a pattern and neither party wants to resolve anything. In other words, conflict is a way of venting selfish feelings. When the pressures of life become focused on someone innocent, conflict is harmful. For example, you’ve had a bad day at work and coming home you carry all that frustration. Now you cannot civilly express all that rage at the office so you do so at home. This is destructive.
- Conflict becomes destructive when either selfishness or bitterness is the basis for your position or actions. To examine this a little, look back at your last conflict. What were you willing to give up to resolve the issue? When bitterness is present, every past conflict is dragged into this one and that makes it destructive.
Now we come to the final 3- making conflict useful.
- Be open minded. Listen carefully to what the other person is saying. Try to ignore any strong emotions coming from them and try to hear the message. What exactly is the issue here? What really are they upset about?
- Always push past the emotions and discomfort and ask yourself and the other person specifically what can be done to resolve this issue and this issue alone. How do we grow through this and when this circumstance comes up again, how can we find a solution more easily.
- Finally, don’t be so surprised when conflict develops. It is actually quite normal. If you are one who finds if unbelievable that someone might not like you, your opinions or values, then you, my friend, are not in the real world!
The truth about life is that quality of life often comes from resolved conflicts and not the absence of conflict. So relax and don’t worry so much when others disagree or get upset. Just keep working on it. Understand that healthy relationships demand continual negotiation. When we stop that negotiation, relationships become shallow- we now only speak about safe things, things that never upsets anyone. Sometimes it takes conflict to keep us together and growing.