Conflict is different for everyone. There is no one simple answer to what conflict is as it can take any shape, size, or time frame. We do know when we are “in a conflict” though, as the impact is often overwhelming.
A conflict can be angry words with a stranger at a bus stop or a fight with a loved one. It can be a breakdown in trust between work colleagues or a dispute leading to grievances and tribunals. It can be between two people, or many countries. It has a bad reputation and often we only see the negative side of conflict which is why it can disempower us so completely.
Conflict drains confidence and self esteem, leaving us feeling ill equipped to deal with it. It can keep you awake at night and eat away at your natural wellbeing. We tend to take things very personally when in conflict and let our fight or flight mode take over our rational senses.
It’s not whether conflict happens to you, its how we respond to it that makes the difference. Becoming aware of how you respond in a difficult situation can be the first step to changing a negative or destructive reaction.
Learning to manage conflict differently means learning new skills. It means being willing to try things out and make mistakes. To work at responding differently to others and ourselves. To change habits that are sometimes persistent and beliefs that are sometimes deeply held.
It may involve taking on scary challenges, such as stepping towards someone we fear or reaching out to someone we dislike and trying to see things from their point of view. It might mean having that difficult conversation that we have been avoiding.
If we work at it we can transform conflict. We can change ourselves and our responses and change our relationship to others. The goal of conflict is neither victory nor defeat but reaching understanding. That understanding can lead to astonishing and unexpected outcomes.