You can flip the way you manage conflict and turn it to your advantage by applying creativity, mindfulness, and compassion.
When was the last time you had an argument with someone, or even with yourself, no matter how serious or petty? Chances are it was in the last week, or the last few days, or perhaps even in the past few hours.
Most of us have faced and continue to face conflict in different aspects and relationships in our lives — when trying to parent, at work, or even while having a casual lunch with a friend whose views differ from ours. Sometimes, we are the ones who initiate the conflict, and at others, we bear the brunt of it. I too am well-versed with conflict: I am a son, a father, an entrepreneur; I have been an employee and a student, and, of course, a friend to many. In many of these relationships there have been times when I’ve faced conflicting emotions, views, either my own or from the other party.
Even for those of us who are not combative, conflict is part of the human experience. Regardless of context, the build-up toward disagreement is always the same: opposing viewpoints are expressed in such a way it feels there can be no agreement. We say words we don’t really mean and often seek to hurt our opponent’s pride as a response to failed dialogue. Naturally, this further depletes our own energy.
But have you ever tried to approach conflict differently, channel this energy in a fruitful way? Well, I have. And it works beautifully — conflict can be a gift if you flip the way you perceive it and deal with it. And the way to do this is simple — by applying mindfulness, compassion, and creativity to situations of conflict.
I have found that most communication is strenuous — that most people listen to others only to push their own agenda or make a point. What if, rather than winning, we prioritized finding common ground? What if we did away with the “me-versus-you”, and prioritized the “we”?
This can begin with a mindful pause. Try to stop talking and pushing your idea. Be mindful of your space, your voice, and your actions while you speak. Are you being aggressive? Are you making eye contact with the person you’re speaking to? Are you truly imbibing the points made by them? This simple checklist can help you appreciate and empathize what the other person is saying. This can help you make room for deeper and more meaningful relationships at work and at home.
Our words reflect our mood and we are often blind to our own style of communication. Assess how you communicate — listen to yourself; be aware of the language you choose; try to hear your own words as they sound to someone else; and be conscious of any underlying assumptions and prejudices that you hold, and how you project them on your peers.
This self-awareness will help us express our thoughts effectively and be compassionate to those we’re communicating with. The point is not to beat ourselves up about how we’ve communicated in the past, but to embrace the journey of progress outlined for us by compassionate communication.
In a conflict, there is often a make-or-break moment that can severe a relationship or push it to a point of no return, but instead of apologizing for the altercation later, how about using that crucial moment in a conflict to change the mood. Sounds difficult? It isn’t.
As they say, laughter is the best medicine: humor can disperse a conflict and help the concerned people refocus on the argument or what really matters, helping them find common ground. When my kids confront me about something, or vice versa, there’s nothing like a good joke to ease the tension and reappraise the issue at hand from a more level-headed, open-minded, and compassionate perspective.
The best fixes are those that establish a free flow of energy to untie the emotional knots, except in this case we want to unblock problems and loosen inflexible opinions to find a compromise. The alternative — leaving a conflict unresolved — is not a viable option: there’s nothing creative about a stalemate.
So, the next time you are in an argument, take a moment and reflect; use your fire and passion to find an artful and fruitful way to a resolution. It will surely be a bigger win than letting conflict rule the outcome.