What to Do in Conflict

#truelove #allowing #dating

GPS for the Soul – The Huffington Post
What to Do in Conflict
Quarrel not at all. No man resolved to make the most of himself can spare time for personal contention. — Abraham Lincoln in a letter to J. M. Cutts, October 26, 1863

You know the feeling: the air in the room changes. An old issue rears its head or a battle of wills springs fresh: either way, conflict is the beast which kills too many relationships and some of them permanently.

Show me a person who likes conflict and you’re either dealing with Buddha or someone who feeds on drama. On the other hand, the paradox is that we need conflict. Conflict creates the energy from which new ideas and closer relationships form.

Great leaders and caring people both know how to use conflict. The twist is: conflict is only valuable if it is temporary. Abe telling us not to quarrel provides the first tip on how to make conflict an asset:

1) Keep an attitude that nothing is personal.
We know it’s not personal, but we still fall for the trap. When conflict happens, and the moment you notice it, even if it’s directed at you, pause.

Next, find its source.

2) Most expressed conflicts are not actually about the topic raised.
For instance, someone not getting work done on time is rarely about the deadline. It’s about the communication that created the deadline, the trust in the relationship, or something in his personal life.

The person you live with isn’t really yelling about the dishes. Figure out what’s really bothering her (it could be work, health, or she’s just tired) or what she really needs from you (and yes, sometimes it is simply for you to do the dishes).

Then, remind yourself why your relationship matters.

3) You can’t resolve a conflict unless you have a reason to reconnect.
At work, you have to know why people want to be there. At home, it’s what the person really needs to feel safe and loved. In community challenges, it’s the first thing everyone can agree needs to be fixed. We need the people in our lives and when we can express why, conflict is ready to be resolved.

Last, find a safe space to end it.

4) Have a conversation with one purpose: get reconnected.
You can’t dance around conflict. With a mediator, a closed door session (where people can’t hear you yelling), or lunch away from the office, have a face-to-face conversation where you either talk through the conflict itself, or refocus on what really matters to you and the person or people with whom you want to start over.

Unfortunately some conflicts don’t end because people are too stuck. In those cases, you have to make bigger changes.

Most of the time, however, we don’t want the tension. When conflict is used intentionally and faced directly, the result is deeper partnerships or friendships or more of the love we all crave.

Do We Really Need to See the Forest?
The wisdom of my childhood implied an urgent necessity to always be aware of the “big picture.” Up until recently that wisdom informed my life. I now challenge it.

Several weeks ago — as the first leg of a move from California to the East Coast, my daughter and I drove across country. That in itself was not a particularly remarkable accomplishment. People do it every day. I, for example, had done that drive four or five times previously. Before each of those across the country trips I studied my maps. I went to the auto club for “guide books” and “trip-tiks.” I, before each of those cross-country drives, charted my route to become aware of the “big picture.”

This trip was different in many respects. This was the first cross-country drive my daughter and I had made together. That was different. When the trip began, my daughter had just entered the second trimester of her first pregnancy. That was certainly different. We drove my 1996 Jeep Cherokee. At the beginning of the trip the odometer accurately registered 274,521 miles driven primarily on Southern California freeways. Beginning a cross-country drive from which, we knew, the Jeep would never return or might possibly not complete was definitely a different way to begin the day.

Filling all available cargo space with delicate dishes and musical instruments and warm winter clothes also differed from my normal routine of driving 33 miles to work expecting to drive the same number of miles home at the end of the day, carrying only my lunch bag. If the Jeep broke down during one of those daily drives I could feel confident that I was close to a reliable mechanic. Leaving that certainty felt very different. It even felt a bit scary but then venturing into uncertainty generally feels scary.

On the rainy morning of our departure, I still believed I knew the “big picture.” Not only could I see the trees, the forest was also clearly visible. I remained the captain of my ship. I could chart the course. Except for one thing. We had no maps.

The trouble with empowering another person to “chart the course” is that we are no longer in charge of the journey. I had happily turned the charting over to my daughter. A child of the digital age, she cared not for paper, foldable, comforting maps. And so it was that we began our journey on that rainy Friday morning with none. What we did have, she explained with unshakable confidence, was a cell phone. I was assured that it was a “smart phone.” It looked plastic to me. Nevertheless, off we went.

For the next 2,783 miles I only imagined the “big picture.” From her cell phone my daughter planned our routes and our days and, yes, our nights. She chose restaurants based on multiple available reviews. She reserved hotel rooms again after reading reviews. She even located a most amazing and generous and patient Jeep dealership in Little Rock when we suspected engine trouble. We visited scenic wonders and cultural phenomena and found our way to each of our many destinations with information viewed on a small piece of plastic.

At one point I became so desperate for even a glimpse of the “big picture” that I furtively tore out a national weather map from a complementary newspaper left at the door of our hotel room. The sparse information on that map offered me no comfort. The “big picture” of our trip and of the vast continent across which we drove existed only in my memory and imagination.

Six and one half wonderful days after it began, on an equally rainy day, our journey ended. We had arrived. The drive was over. The Jeep had survived and we had thrived.

I still have that weather map of this continental country. It shows not one highway, offers no topographical information, and didn’t even accurately identify the weather fronts of the day on which it was published. And yet on that trip I gained a sense of the “big picture” from it and felt settled even though logic screamed that what I held was useless.

Why, I wonder, did I so yearn for a map showing greater than a day’s drive distance? Such additional information would have neither hastened nor deterred our progress. Why, I also wonder, did my daughter require no such reassurance that our road existed as part of a greater system or that our destination was reachable? Perhaps she has evolved further in the acceptance of life’s uncertainties than have I.

I think we would all like to see the “big pictures” of our lives. We’d like to know our destinations and where we are along the way. We’d like to know if we are on the right road and where our own I-40 fits in relationship to I-10 perhaps to help us at the very least determine whether or not we should change routes. We want to see the whole forest of our lives.

Of course, we get it that such information is, aside from fleeting and rare glimpses, denied us. Perhaps our digitally aged children have acquired — certainly not inherited — a greater comfort with uncertainty. They don’t need the big picture possibly because they innately know they won’t get it.

For those of us still yearning to see both the forest and the trees, sometimes holding a weather map torn from a free newspaper at the hotel room door can at least assure us that the big picture does exist even if we never get to see it. So it is that — before I toss the crumpled and torn and useless weather map into the trash along with other antiquated behaviors and longings — I yearn for one more look at the big pictured forest to catch just one fleeting glimpse of the method with which my yet to be born grandchild will chart its life courses.

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