Making the best out of conflicts

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Photo by Charl Folscher,

Conflict usually occurs when two or more people disagree about something that affects their lives. Indeed, disagreeing about minor things tends to simply cause a change of subject. A conflict arises when that which is discussed is inevitable and irrefutable.

Conflict is not entirely negative, however. Most media seem to portray an ideal life as entirely peaceful and lacking any sort of strife, but that is anything but realistic. Conflict is merely a part of life. It shouldn’t occur too often, but to never have to deal with it is unnatural if anything.

“The question is not if we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. The nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.” - Martin Luther King Jr

Good things can arise from conflict

While a conflict can end with disheartening arguments and hurt feelings, this mostly applies to conflicts which are unresolved (and often repeated).

A conflict handled properly will result in clarity for the participants. Issues they were not aware of earlier will become present, allowing them to come up with solutions. A conflict may provide motivation. In the workplace, this can be a desire for greater success. In a family or in a relationship, solving the basis of a conflict may strengthen existing bonds.

“When I am completely myself, entirely alone during the night when I cannot sleep, it is on such occasions that my ideas flow best and most abundantly.” - Mozart

Talk about your feelings, Don’t express them immediately

Feelings tend to cause conflict more than objective statements. This applies both in the workplace and in regards to your loved ones. Here’s what you can do about it.

  • Ask participants about how they feel. This one especially counts for group conflicts or business-related ones, where feelings are often suppressed, though it’s valuable advice for all disagreements. A chance to say how you feel increases emotional stability and makes you feel more valued.
  • Say how you feel instead of acting upon it. This bit of advice is more in regards to personal conflict. A common mistake people make is immediately getting sad, angry, or otherwise compromised, so to speak. Take a moment to calm yourself and simply state how you’re feeling, preferably before the emotion gets too strong. Ironically, this tends to make the statement far more genuine, perhaps out of the inherent respect that comes from hearing someone say such a thing calmly.
  • Say why you feel, too. A second, also common mistake is stating how you feel about the subject without proper reasoning. This is a sure-fire way to sound and be, more rational in a conflict. Others will understand you far easier if you provide them with proper reasoning.

“For me, insanity is super sanity. The normal is psychotic. Normal means lack of imagination, lack of creativity.” - Jean Dubuffet

Don't avoid the issue (more than once)

If a conflict exists, to begin with, it means that something’s deeply wrong with the current state of the subject. Stalling or saving the inevitable discussion or argument for later is very rarely a good move, as it may paint you as unreasonable or even cowardly.

On the other hand, there is a specific occasion where delaying conflict is a wise move: If you are sure that the other participant/s are too emotionally unstable at the moment, it may be wise to find an excuse and try again later for their (and your) own good. If do this, make sure not to repeat it, as most people catch on by the second time and get offended.

“The first and most important thing an individual can do is to become an individual again, decontrol himself, train himself as to what is going on and win back as much independent ground for himself as possible.” - William S. Burroughs

Focus on the objective

To properly come out of a conflict with positive effects, you need to identify a problem and make a plan on how to solve it. Here’s a list of most common, recurring causes for conflict:

  • Poor resource management. Participants are being irresponsible with resources, or not producing enough resources. The solution may involve better management or simply harder or more work, which should be communicated towards as pleasantly as possible.
  • Lack of communication and misinformation. Whether in the workplace or at home, there are many actions that can seem very malign without a proper explanation. Always try to be as clear as possible and promote such an attitude in others.
  • Emotional disagreements. In the case of this issue, your goal is to act as rational as possible, while also inspiring the other participant/s to indulge in such behavior. Everyone should explain their viewpoint, and everyone should be acknowledged as much as possible.

“Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” - Andy Warhol

Don’t be “the superior”

In conflict, the feeling of being over someone tends to badly influence other participants. From simply having a higher position to acting as if you cannot be in the wrong, such a relation between you (presumably) and other participants promotes a plethora of toxic responses such as withholding criticism, giving in to anger, holding a grudge, manifesting fear and so on.

In a conflict, you should make sure to point out mistakes that you have or can make, as well as your flaws. Try to equate or even belittle yourself in relation to others (though not overwhelmingly, as it backfires and becomes comprehended as manipulation).

Show respect to other participants. Thank them for their views and contributions. Make them feel valued and valuable. This is a sure-fire way to make any interaction more pleasant, including a tense one.

With the above advice in mind, I wish you good luck in solving any conflicts that lie ahead.

“It seems like the world is crumbling out there, but it is actually a really great time in your life to get a little crazy, follow your curiosity and be ambitious about it.” - Larry Page

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