We are all going to have conflict. That’s just the way it is. One of the first ways we learn about conflict is from our family and some people never change from this early approach.
Family of origin stuff provides us with a recipe for handling conflict and often it isn’t the tastiest creation out there. Say our conflict style is a recipe handed down from our family. For some, it may be like a very tasty creation that you look forward to each family dinner. For most of us, though, it may be a molded lime jellied salad with shredded lettuce and onion….. avoid it at all costs. (My apologies to those who actually enjoy this dish. My mom brought me some in a jar – jar???!! – one day long ago and I left it in the car on a warm day – it melted, the lettuce browned……shudder.)
However, say that the only salad you’ve ever known is that jellied salad. You don’t know that there is such thing as roasted beets with goat cheese on arugula. You continue making the lime jellied salad even though it is always unpleasant. Sure, one or two people always scoop it up, but, really, they aren’t model picnic goers, are they? Therefore, when somebody suggests you have MORE salad (read conflict) and do it better, you imagine rows of shiny jelly with more submerged, rather limp veggies, maybe orange or red jelly but still a jellied salad. You can’t imagine enjoying salad because you’ve never had the beet salad.
Salad can be good for us. We should eat more of it. The kind of salad we eat, though, should be healthy and satisfying. For me, that kicks jellied salad right off the table. Goat cheese, on the other hand, can be an acquired taste. Start by serving it on the side, and then gradually add it in until you cannot imagine a salad without it. Ok, enough with the metaphor.
This is how we can practice conflict. We need to recognize that perhaps we are still bringing the old recipe to the picnic, which doesn’t work for anybody. We need to look for new ways that we may not even know exist and then we need to practice these new behaviours gradually until we are skilled and the conflict is healthy and beneficial and we grow big and strong.
That’s the point of healthy conflict – growth, both personal and relational. Conflict makes space for different opinions, ideas, beliefs and strengths to come to the surface and, by embracing the wisdom from every point of view, we come up with better, richer, and more inclusive solutions. As the book by Tim Scudder, Michael Patterson, and Kent Mitchell says “Have a Nice Conflict”!
To learn more about your conflict style and how to increase your skill in relating to others, contact Rosalie Boulter, certified Relationship Systems Coach and certified facilitator of the Strengths Deployment Inventory (SDI) for personal or couple’s coaching – firstname.lastname@example.org.