people talking to a stressed coworker in the workplace

What Kind of Conflict Are You Resolving?

Most of our conflict is in our minds. We like to think our conflict is with the other person, but we are battling a version of ourselves that we don’t like. By making it us versus them, we further our separation believing that we are fighting someone who is nothing like us, but as we know, that’s the furthest from the truth. We say things like if only they weren’t here life would be so much better. I know a few managers that felt like this and I know you’ve had some too. I’m sure the managers that we believe to have conflict with had conflict with their managers as well. Again, we’re not so dissimilar.

Everything is telling us that we are having issues with another person. We can’t have arguments with ourselves, right? You weren’t the person that cheated on you. You weren’t the adult who emotionally abandoned you as a child. How can you be in that other car that cut you off in traffic? It’s very easy to blame someone else and become the victim. We know that this is who we are. So, who are we fighting? Remember those judgments, opinions, and expectations we talked about earlier? We are fighting those and all those are coming from you.

Conflict is merely an attempt to control reality. I talked about how I didn’t agree with a conflict resolution training that I was in. Another reason was due to how conflict resolution comes with the expectation that someone to change. We tell people that they shouldn’t do this, or they shouldn’t do that, and call it objective feedback when these opinions are the stories we tell ourselves. I’ve had experiences where a person projected their workaholism on me because hard work is the way they earned their spot. If there was a time when I exhibited rest, I could be seen as lazy. Not meeting expectations and treating those expectations as absolute truth is a surefire way of creating conflict.

It’s very important to uncover the illusions or the meaningless ideas that form the conflict within yourself. We tend to ruminate on these conflicts without having a conversation with the other person. We judge people’s character without using our words to tell a person how we feel. Having a conversation may be the only way to tell whether our judgments are true. We are probably the worst to judge another person’s character because we tend to lean towards the negative.

People believe that the only way to avoid conflict is to be reactive. With everything meaningless, we have the choice to make it meaningful. When conflict arrives we can easily dismiss it. If you can’t dismiss it you can forgive the person and/or the situation. We just described how a conflict typically has nothing to do with the other person, but those expectations, judgments, and opinions are just as meaningless. Learn to forgive yourselves and remove the stories we tell ourselves. This might be more difficult than forgiving the other person.