How to Embrace and Grow from Conflict
The phrase “no pain, no gain” is commonly associated with the discipline needed in sports to push oneself past mental and physical barriers.
The truth is, even physical barriers are mostly mental. I’ve always felt the phrase “mental toughness” was redundant, meaning toughness is a mentality. Be that as it may, we must push through barriers to grow, and growing can be painful. However, growing is good and necessary. In order to grow we must get out of our comfort zone and be open to conflict.
While conflict typically has a negative connotation, we are often presented with some of our best growth opportunities during these times
While conflict typically has a negative connotation, we are often presented with some of our best growth opportunities during these times. So why then do we typically go to such lengths to reduce or avoid conflict? I believe the two biggest reasons are lack of experience in dealing with conflict and the lack of a solid conflict resolution strategy.
On the first point, simply put, parents/coaches/educators too often are trying so hard to shield young people from conflict that they're stunting their growth. Certainly, it's hard to see young people struggle. However, by over-protecting young people in the short term, we may make it harder in the long term. On the second point, dealing with conflict will become less daunting if we have a solid strategy.
Years ago, I found a list of Ten Strategies for Conflict Resolution on the Citizens Committee for New York City website and have used it in our team's leadership training program. Here are the recommendations:
- Attack the problem, not the person. Start with a compliment.
- Communicate your feelings assertively, NOT aggressively. Express them without blaming.
- Focus on the issue, NOT your position about the issue.
- Accept and respect that individual opinions may differ, don’t try to force compliance, work to develop common agreement.
- Do not review the situation as a competition, where one has to win and one has to lose. Work toward a solution where both parties can have some of their needs met.
- Focus on areas of common interest and agreement, instead of areas of disagreement and opposition.
- NEVER jump to conclusions or make assumptions about what another is feeling or thinking.
- Listen without interrupting; ask for feedback if needed to assure a clear understanding of the issue.
- Remember, when only one person’s needs are satisfied in a conflict, it is NOT resolved and will continue.
- Forget the past and stay in the present.
- Build ‘power with’ NOT ‘power over’ others.
In summary, growing is both painful and necessary. Let's not try to avoid conflict, but rather see it as a growth opportunity. Equipped with experience and a sound conflict resolution strategy, we enable our students to build more bridges and create a more just and sustainable world.