My weekend has been pretty fabulous so far. There’s only one thing that arose that I could have done without: conflict. I was involved with and exposed to a bit of conflict over the weekend. I wasn’t involved much with one issue. And, unfortunately, I believe I was the center of the other issue.
Conflict can be uncomfortable and ugly and unpleasant. I don’t believe I’m alone when I say I don’t like conflict. Because I don’t want conflict setting up shop in my life, I immediately reacted to one of the situations. I wanted to fix it; to make it go away. Unfortunately, my reaction didn’t get me the outcome that I wanted.
I reflected on the unresolved situation for quite some time. I continued to come back to three things I wish I had done differently:
First and foremost, I wasn’t conscious. By that I mean, I didn’t slow down and take a breath. I didn’t become completely aware of my feelings, behaviors, thoughts, and actions in the moment. If I had been conscious in the moment, it would have allowed me to RESPOND vs REACT. I would have been able to give more thought to how the other person was feeling and validated her feelings.
Second, I didn’t set an intention for the discussion. Setting an intention would have allowed me to think of the desired outcome, and in general, how I wanted to handle myself in attempts to meet that goal (e.g., my tone, body language, and how I want the other person and myself to feel at the conclusion).
Third, and certainly not least, I should have put her needs ahead of my own. I was so focused on trying to convey my point, that I wasn’t attuned to her needs. Even though her interpretation of what happened wasn’t accurate, I still could have empathized with how she was feeling.
After identifying the three flaws above, I realized that conflict may actually be a fairly common occurrence in my professional life, just not my personal life. I realized this because I successfully and routinely employ these strategies (consciousness, intention setting, and empathy) when I have “hard conversations” at work. The interesting thing is the hard conversations don’t FEEL like conflict. I suspect that’s because of the way I approach the dialogue and because the parties usually don’t have en emotional investment. Personal conflicts, on the other hand, are typically fraught with emotions and can easily catch us off guard. I believe that’s what happened with me and why my typical strategies weren’t on my radar.
Thankfully, conflict isn’t a normal part of my personal life. That means that I don’t expect to get much opportunity to practice implementing these strategies to reach a better outcome next time. My intention is that as I continue to practice consciousness, it’ll become easier and easier to be “in the moment,” for all the wonderful and beautiful moments, but also the challenging ones.
How do you handle conflict? What techniques work for you? What do you find most irritating or hurtful about conflict? What would you change to make it better? I'd love to hear your thoughts. We can all learn from each other.
Be open to what comes.