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A NEW WAY TO THINK ABOUT CONFLICT

March 7, 2017

 

One of the major premises of conflict coaching is that the opportunity for growth and learning exists in any situation.

 

We all face conflicts in our lives; some, we start, others are forced upon us, but  each of us has our own way of dealing with them. Most people don’t particularly like conflicts, as they tend to be explosive, destructive, often violent, painful, and discomforting, so it is not surprising that society has ingrained the philosophy of reducing the presence of conflicts in our lives. But yet, conflicts are still present.

 

In fact, conflicts are continuously present in our lives. I dare to take it even further - that conflicts are the driving force in our lives. Not only are conflicts unavoidable, but they also serve as sources of energy for us to live and grow. This energy is what drives us to action; it is the best motivating factor to push us to such action. Just like in the physical world where we need to have a conflict between positive and negative poles in order to generate power, so it is in our lives that we have conflicts to produce the energy required to motivate our actions.

 

There are different types of conflicts reflecting various aspects of our lives but they fall mainly into two groups - external and internal. External conflicts are interpersonal or relational between people, groups, communities, organizations, and countries. The driving force behind this type of conflict, perceived as negative, will lead to change. However, what direction this change will take is up to us. It can move organizations to adjust their operations, or it can move countries on a path of improved policies.

 

Internal conflicts are those that challenge our values, beliefs, needs, etc. They can be destructive if the people involved perceive it as a threat to their existence. This threat leads people to act from a place of fear and anger. On a personal level, conflicts create an even stronger fear. This kind of conflict requires a change of thought within us, whether it co

 

ncerns our beliefs, our needs, or our values. In this ever-changing world, everything changes and pulls us along in the process. We can’t separate ourselves from the world, and we can’t prepare for every change. and demand it be thrown toward us. Our personal worldview (aka our bubble) is where we feel safe, but the more we hide and protect our bubble, the stronger the conflict within us becomes, and the more powerful the force is.  

 

Societal Development of Conflict 

 

In the social context, conflicts are responsible for the structure of our society. In fact, conflicts played an even stronger role at the dawn of our civilization. The natural selection process ensured that the viable species and the strongest groups of people survived and prospered until better and stronger tribes or groups came along. Conflict, internal functioning, cooperation, and integrity allowed the fittest to survive and contribute to the development of contemporary society.

 

Early humans had to find the balance between cooperation and conflict to allow the natural selection process to manifest. This balance made a lot of sense in early societies when survival instincts were of vital importance and dominated human behavior. This instinct has not disappeared and quickly comes to life whenever we face a threat to our existence, whether perceived or real. It is on this same instinctual level that we feel success whenever we engage in conflict and “win.”

 

But in our modern world, we rarely face situations that threaten our physical existence, so we seldom feel truly satisfied after the win. We are now more able to understand that the role of survival is different, just as our separation from others does not seem to be so obvious anymore. Our abilities to travel, learn, and comprehend the complexity of the world grow. This understanding and knowledge allow us to know that the real survival at this point depends more on cooperation, rather than on conflict.

 

Balance Through Conflict - A New Way of Thinking 

 

What does this all tell us? It tells us that we need conflict to grow, to develop, and to improve. We invent opposing parties to balance the power and competition to promote progress. From a Yin and Yang perspective, the nature of the world becomes apparent; it is a never-ending dance of corresponding opposing elements creating an elegant balance of the world within us and around us.

 

There is no progress without healthy conflict. We have a conflict between emotions and logic, separation and unity, cooperation and competition, and the material and spiritual. It is a beautiful balance of different elements put in motion by the wheel of life. Why would we want to give it up?! Why would we choose to give everything to one side, while suppressing life in its process?


Instead, we ought to conquer the art of conflict, embrace its forces, and use them. This is our ultimate power: to balance the graceful dance of life with meaning and purpose. In coaching settings, we explore the forces of our inner world and its energetic makeup by recognizing the role they play within our inner self. This setting creates an environment perfect for exploring opportunities for growth in individual development, as well as successful leadership in an organization. Coaching can lead not only to the development of conflict resolution strategies, but it can also result in a conscious transition from survival mode to thriving mode. Through the courageous, yet gentle development of leadership skills, the approach is focused in a deeper holistic sense to achieve this balance.

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