Do you have conflict in your life? Many people would answer No to that question. I would want to check their pulse at that point.
Are you breathing? Then, you probably have some conflict somewhere in your life. Conflict is as normal as breathing, and yet we are so untrained for how to handle it, and more importantly our responses to it.
Have you ever thought about how many tools you have in your “conflict management” tool kit? Probably not many. For most of us, our conflict tool kit will be equipped with our natural strategies arising from our personality, and probably from how we saw conflict being handled as a child.
There are a bunch of reactions that we have to conflict in our minds, but our primal ones, our physical responses have always interested me. I believe that they are our often unknown core response.
Conflict and stress in our lives can trigger our physical “Fight” or “Flight” responses.
That primitive physical response, that brings some of us to have an urge to duck down, hide and make it all disappear. “No fighting” “stop it” “Don’t worry, it’s not that big a deal” “I didn’t mean it” sound like some good flight responses. A fighter would come out swinging “You’re right I meant it” “Didn’t you hear me” “I can’t believe our manager is such an idiot”.
I, am a Flight-er. And for the longest time, I thought it was weakness.
That somehow the Fight-ers that I saw around me were braver, stronger, tougher. That perhaps they were better than me.
Then, in 2010 I went to Melbourne to attend a great course, Money and You. There was a bunch of stuff that I learned on that course, but one of the most powerful lessons came as a complete surprise. At Money and You there is plenty of learning done through games, and our responses in those games.
I saw, for the first time, that Fight or Flight, as a response to conflict, is just that. A response. No better. No worse. It was clear that they, the Fighters, were just as clueless when dealing with conflict. Theirs was just louder and emphatic and with an appearance of confidence. When really they were completely rattled, in just the same way as the Flighters were just hoping it would all stop and they could get away from the conflict.
That was an intensely liberating lesson for me. And maybe you might find it helpful too.
What if, when you feel conflict or stress, and your usual response kicks in, you could feel it for what it is. Just a response, and not necessarily the only tool you have to draw on. Perhaps a Fighter could find the benefit from letting a bit slide on past them, giving things a bit longer and a bit more space for the other party to be heard and to listen. Perhaps a Flighter could try standing firm, repeating their view and being prepared to see what happens.
Conflict is something that we can spend so much energy avoiding or attempting to dominate, that we can easily miss the heart of the issue.
I suggest to you, that perhaps there could be a benefit for all of us, to reach beyond our natural response, to build some depth in our communication and listening skills. The right tool could just be a life changer.
I hope that I have plenty of room left in my tool kit, because I plan on adding a whole lot more!