Conflict with other people is a part of life.
We are unavoidably going to find ourselves in conflict with friends, family, co-workers, and romantic partners—and if we don’t, there is a serious problem. If we have no conflict in our lives, then it simply means we are not standing up for ourselves.
We want to be good at facing the conflict that comes up with people, rather than running away from any dispute or getting overemotional. If we can master conflict resolution, then we can deal with any situation in life, and this feels pretty damn powerful.
We learn through conflict. It is part of the evolutionary process. It is the balance between peace and conflict that propels the world forward. There can be no peace if we can’t deal with conflict.
Before we get into the right way to deal with altercations between people, let’s list a couple of the wrong ways:
1. Running away. When we try to avoid conflict, it just comes back to bite us in the ass.
2. Obsessively trying to make peace. This comes from insecurity, not understanding. Nothing can be solved.
3. Pathologically trying to create conflict. We just end up making a mess of things…obviously.
My tendency is number two. I try to figure things out right away without allowing any time for reflection. My attempts to resolve conflict in this way have not been effective. It comes from a place of pain and anxiety, instead of love and self-confidence.
What I have learned is that we need to stand up for ourselves before anything else. We must honor our point of view before we truly hear the other side; otherwise, we lose our sense of self out of a pathological need to resolve the conflict right away.
Remember, our birth was violent and chaotic. Struggles are a natural part of being alive. It doesn’t just make us stronger, it makes us human.
In my experience, the right way to deal with dispute is to stand up for ourselves in a loving way—by asserting our life experience and intimate sense of identity, and with a desire to solve the problem in a way that serves the truth of the immediate situation and the greater good moving forward.
I know what you’re probably thinking—how the hell do we know what serves the truth and the greater good then?!
Here are a few tips:
1. Make sure we know why we (or the other person) is upset. We need to understand what the conflict is exactly, if we are to have any hope of dealing with it. We should ask ourselves: “What are the deeper issues at play here? In what way do I want to be heard?”
2. Be willing to admit when we are wrong. This takes great humility, especially when things are tense with someone. The trick to this is to remember to be curious and have a true desire to understand the situation as best we can.
3. Don’t take sh*t. When the other person is projecting, make sure to call them out. This benefits everyone involved. If we are passive to the grip of the other person’s ego, then nothing is solved.
4. Accept the possibility that this conflict will not be resolved. This is key. We need to be willing to let go and just accept that our differences are natural. True acceptance is the essence of love.
The people in our lives can be a royal pain in the ass sometimes, but so can we. We are not always going to be right, but we can certainly stand up for ourselves in a loving way, no matter what situation is presented to us. This is our greatest strength—to love in the face of chaos.
I have had my fair share of stressful dealings, having lived with a severe chronic illness for years and having many misunderstandings with people through this process. The most useful tool for me has been trust. Trusting myself. Trusting the healing movements of time. Trusting the better angels of our nature. And maybe even trusting the universe will work itself out, in some strange way.
Living with a sense of trust provides us with the strength with need to stand up for ourselves in a loving way.
Author: Samuel Kronen
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Copy Editor: Travis May