How to Handle Conflict
I’ll start by saying, I hate confrontation and I hate conflict and avoid it at all costs. So when I found myself in conflict with someone it was unbelievably uncomfortable and anxiety inducing, as it is for many of us I’m sure.
We are never going to see eye to eye with everyone. We’re all different and sometimes conflict of some kind is unavoidable. We all have our own moral compass, our own opinions and our own priorities in life and it’s unrealistic to expect to all be on the same page all of the time.
My own experience with conflict
I once had a situation in which I felt I was being wronged. Someone gave me their opinion which was so far removed from my own perception of a situation. To say it stung is an understatement. I had never been in a situation like this and as someone who likes to be liked I found the whole thing rather horrendous.
When it comes to conflict the crux is often that the people in conflict both want to be right. This was definitely the case for me. I was in such a state that I turned to a friend and mentor (and fellow coach) and she asked me why I felt I needed to respond to this person. My response was that I had to make them see they were wrong (so essentially, that I was right).
The temptation when faced with conflict, especially when we feel we’ve been wronged in some way, is to convince the other person we are right and they are wrong. I learnt in this situation that it’s pointless to attempt this. We all see the world through our own lens and the same situation can be perceived totally differently by two people. That’s because we’re all different and all have our own frame of reference.
It’s essential that we let go of our desire to be right.
Would you rather be right or happy?
This is a very good question. In the midst of conflict we may instinctively feel we want nothing more than to be proved right but actually, when we really think about it, what will it achieve? Also, will you ever really know that the other person has come come to their senses?
Maybe you have conflict with your partner or family member. Sometimes the conflict can become so big that it overshadows the good points to the relationship. Again, it all boils down to our human desire to be right.
Let’s say your partner said something hurtful to you and then couldn’t understand why you were offended. We all have different thresholds. What’s offensive to one person may not be offensive to someone else. You can explain to your partner until you’re blue in the face that their actions were hurtful but it’s likely they may never truly see your point. Yes, this can be hugely frustrating but is it really a good use of your energy to keep on hammering home your point?
Now, I’m not saying to be submissive, not all all. It’s important to get your point across but once that’s done (preferably in a calm and articulate way) that’s your job done. How others receive what you have to say is up to them.
Learn to let go
Letting go of conflict and your desire to be right can be tough but it’s such a good skill to have in life and having been through my own tricky situation I feel better equipped to deal with conflict.
Here are some tips for letting go:
- Write a letter to the person you are at conflict with but never send it
- Write down all your frustrations and then burn them
- Use imagery – imagine shipping off a big chest full of all that ‘conflict baggage’ to sea
A really great podcast on this topic which helped me when I was in the midst of conflict is this one from the Life Coach School Podcast.
So next time you find yourself in conflict with someone ask yourself if you’re desperately trying to prove you’re right. Is that desperation the source of your frustration? Remember that nothing is worth destroying your peace and even if it doesn’t feel like it, it’s so much better to be happy than it is to be right. Let go.
If you’d like any coaching around any tricky situations you’re in at the moment I’d love to be able to help so do get in touch.