Chapter 33: Battling through conflict with a new strategy

Having an argument – I could think of ten thousand other things I would rather do, like sunbathing, watching Netflix, or dining with friends. I would even prefer filing a tax claim, feeling hungover, or unclogging the sink.

What about yourself? Do you try to avoid conflict conversations, or do you brace them without hesitation?

Conflicts cause nauseous headaches. The mere thought of getting into one twists our gut. We may assume it is preferable to avoid conflict as we do not want to cause unpleasant emotions for ourselves and the other person. We are afraid to hurt the relationship with them. For the sake of peace, we swallow the matter that upset us. We swallow and swallow until we are too full and cannot take more things in. This is the point when we will puke out the bottled-up pile of past peeves, up to their pettiest detail.

In the long run, silencing what bugs us provokes more damage than addressing the problems directly when they are relevant. It is advisable to resolve disparities before you pamper a grudge inside your head which only gains monstrosity with every new issue you leave unspoken.

Is there really a way of approaching conflict with a positive attitude though?

Indeed, we may never be able to face conflict with the same positive energy as we look forward to a holiday. Nevertheless, we can try our best to approach disputes more adaptively because conflict embodies more than a verbal wrestling over power.

Instinctively, we tend to frame conflict as a win-lose situation. When two or more opinions clash, we think only one person can win the argument, whereas the other party loses. We therefore fight hard to ensure we will win. We defend ourselves against the words that our opponent is attacking us with. Then, we launch a counterstrike where we shove the blame onto our opponent by unveiling all their faults. No matter how harsh the battle gets, we want to stand our ground to prove that we are in the right.

The problem is that this approach marks the vanguard to resistance and rivalry, which leads us away from dissolving any kind of conflict.

Instead of combating conflict with a me-versus-you attitude, how about approaching it as a battle fought side by side together?

Conflicts arise due to different understandings of a matter. We all breathe in the world in different pulses, leading to varying expectations and beliefs. It is exactly when people’s expectations split that conflict is sure to follow. I say the bath towel is bright red; my flatmate says the towel is orange. Remember that your individual perception puts you on a leash which prevents you from spying beyond your own horizon.

By bringing individual perspectives to the table, we can help each other to untie this leash. It is fatal to assume that the opposing party must be aware of the issue you are having with them. You cannot premise that they must know about how their behaviour makes you feel. Since we are all dogs to a limited perception, our best strategy to resolve conflict is via an open communication about expectations and perceptions. Besides, a mutual exchange of critical feedback will be a win for your own career, on an occupational, social, and personal level.

A constructive parlay discussion involves the mutual readiness to hear another out. Invite your opponent to present their point of view, listen to them – I repeat, listen to them, and acknowledge their view as a valid reality, even if you may disagree. Nobody possesses a perfect recording of this world. But conquering conflict together as comrades, we can battle partial and distorted realities. 

At the end of the day, do we not all march for the same ideals in regard to interpersonal matters?

Would you not rather maintain a good, functional, and mutually-beneficial relationship with somebody else instead of wasting your resources on a never-ending feud? Would you not prefer a victory over conflict in which you seized new, better understandings of your own shortcomings, including how to patch them?

When it comes to conflicts, mounting a bullish offensive will merely waste your forces. However, if we rout conflict as allies who are united by the same campaign, namely to resolve the given quarrel, we will strengthen the fundamentals of our relationship and also advance to new ideas together.

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