How would the quality of your life change if you'd be able to discover in conflict an opportunity for personal and organizational growth?
We can't escape conflict. It's a natural part of life. The higher the degree of interdependence the more likely we will run into conflict.
What we can change is our attitude towards conflict.
How we deal with conflict says a lot about our maturity as human beings and professionals. I know, it's an inconvenient truth.
When we experience conflict, we tend to react. We either fly, fight, or freeze.
A lot of time we assign blame to the other. It's someone else's fault. We point fingers.
When we turn the blaming mode on, we are like the driver stuck in traffic who complains energetically. He forgets that both he and his car are equally part of the problem.
No doubt conflicts often trigger fear, anxiety, uncertainty, frustration, and even anger.
But these emotions are also the result of considering conflicts as problems; as something that needs to be managed, fixed, or resolved.
The classical definitions of conflict provided by academia equally highlight conflict as a problem, as something negative in nature.
Scholars have defined conflict as an "expression of unsatisfaction," as the result of "perceived incompatible interests," or "differences in goals." The behaviors of those involved in a conflict are characterized as "interfering, disrupting, obstructing." It's the experience of a struggle "over values and claims to scarce status, power, and resources."
These are all negative definitions of the conflict's nature, and no doubt it reflects empirical observations.
I do wonder, though, if highlighting the negative and disempowering experiences of conflict contributes to its perpetuation, rather than to its transformation.
If I say that a conflict is a struggle, will I not express a self-fulfilling prophecy? Doesn't a struggle also suggest that conflict needs to be won and that therefore at the end of the day there will be a winner and loser?
I work with CEOs and senior executives across the world. During our coaching sessions, sooner or later they bring up a conflict they are facing.
And yes, they do frame it most of the time in negative terms. It's a source of worries, doubts, frustration, etc.
The strong emotions that often accompany the experience of conflict also reflect the quality of thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that people have about themselves, others, and life. Ultimately, it demonstrates the quality of their self-image.
In other words, I consider conflict as an expression of a given level of consciousness of the people involved in the conflict.
Thus, I see conflict more like an invitation to evolve, to expand, and to grow.
I don't focus right away to find ways to dealing with it, to fixing it. Instead, I ask myself and my clients: What's the opportunity here? What needs to be clarified? What wants to be generated?
These are empowering questions. These questions frame conflict not as a problem to be resolved, but instead, they focus on the desired outcome.
What is possible when you focus on the outcome rather than on the problem? What resources can be mobilized? What vision can be elicited?
I believe that this is the differential in a coaching approach to conflict resolution.
Because conflict coaching, rather than training in the traditional skills of conflict resolution, helps those involved in a conflict to take it as an opportunity for personal and organizational growth.
When you reframe conflict as an opportunity for growth, you unlock powerful inner resources. You can recognize, connect, and manifest a future that wants to emerge.
Therefore, the solution, the change, the fixing, are the consequence of you becoming who you need to become so that a situation can be transformed. The change is the result of your evolution; of you reaching a new level of consciousness. Thus, I ask you again: What’s possible if you see conflict as an opportunity for change and innovation instead of the source of a painful experience?
If you are interested in learning how to turn conflict into an opportunity for growth and experience extraordinary transformation in your life, I invite you to check out my ICF-accredited certification in Executive Conflict Coaching; a program on the cutting-edge of conflict resolution and transformation. Click here for more information.