I was about six years old when I learnt best friends argue. I can’t remember the exact details, but it related to a monumental disagreement about whose hand my best friend would hold as we walked into the school assembly . It turned out she didn’t want to hold mine! Feeling disappointed and rejected, I vowed never, ever to speak to her again. Ever.
It didn’t last long. By the next day, we were tearing around the school playground together, making potions out of leaves and petals and playing hopscotch on chalked grids on the ground.
What I didn’t know then was that all relationships encounter conflict, whether big or small. When we mix with others, there will be times when we compete, misunderstand, act on our perceptions and conditioning or react rudely or aggressively to somebody who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Conflict and Growth
Conflict can lead to growth and greater understanding if we allow ourselves to learn from it. The only way to do this is by accepting your own role in it and by putting yourself to account for your actions. This also means that you take charge of resolving it and ensuring that you limit those battles that are best left unfought.
Growth arising out of conflict is most obvious when we look at social change. I have just finished watching the excellent series, Pose on Netflix, which tells the story of Black and Latino members of the LGBTQ+ community in New York during the 1980s and 1990s. This marginalized sector of society organised protests and demonstrations against the then government’s response to the AIDs epidemic and the way that they were effectively, ignored and left to die. Whilst a lot more work needs to be done for society to accept people who identify as transgender, their opposition to the government’s response has led to beneficial change.
When you look at your relationships, you often see that arguments lead to discussions about unsatisfied needs, unacknowledged desires and feelings and the aim of this blog is give you the tools to dispel misconceptions , to allow greater understanding and to strengthen relationships through constructive communication. This really is the point of conflict resolution. To end a conflict once and for all and to bring about solutions that benefit every stakeholder.
If this option is not working and you decide it is best to end a relationship because of a conflict, then that in itself, is a realization that can deepen your understanding of yourself, your values and your boundaries.
What About Empathy?
You can only achieve growth through conflict if you are able to empathise first and foremost with yourself. Recognising that it’s painful, stressful and that maybe you made a mistake, is something you do with kindness and understanding of your personal experience. If you lashed out at your partner because you’re having a bad day, realise that we all have those days. The next step is to extend that empathy to your partner and apologise.
Empathy is about giving space to emotions so that they are acknowledged, accepted and understood. If I empathise with a person I am in conflict with, I allow distance, I try to see things from their perspective and I refrain from destroying our relationship with angry words, insults or unnecessary aggression. Instead, I seek to build bridges with my empathy to meet them halfway . It’s not about being a door mat. It’s about taking compassionate actions to show the other person that you are just two people suffering. This is ultimately, what nourishes our growth.
Do I have to grow?
No. You can do whatever you want with conflict and believe me, personal development is not always easy. But just imagine for a moment what it would be like to have less conflict in your life, to feel less triggered, to allow more self-acceptance and understanding, more harmony, tolerance and wisdom. What would that be like? Would you feel relieved ? Less lonely and isolated? Imagine what that could bring to your life and to the lives of those around you.
What do you think about this? Let me know by posting a comment !