Tuesday Thoughts: Working With Conflict

Conflict is the most common term in English to describe an interaction between two opposing sides of an issue.  Conflict is an inevitable part of being alive.  Where there is life, there is conflict – whether you experience it simply as resistance or friction, or as an obstacle in the way of what you want.

Conflict (from the Latin confligere, “to clash together”) can be a very bad thing. It is also uncomfortable.  It can cause damage to everyone involved.  But conflict is not always a bad thing.  It often can be creative; it shakes up what needs to be shaken up.  Nonetheless, whether we regard it as positive or negative, when conflict emerges, it forces us to work with the friction, change, and chaos in our lives.

Resolving conflict is not about bringing the other person over to your side but bringing him or her to something larger than either side (taking the whole), such as a solution that neither side envisioned at the onset of the conflict.  It is not about “I win, you lose.” The habitual pattern of responding to conflict with aggression and one-sidedness, which only escalates the conflict and results in cascading chain of events that leads to more destruction for everyone.

And so in the military (every campaign that involves marshaling and focusing our resources to achieve an objective) –

Knowing the other and knowing oneself,

In one hundred battles no danger.

Not knowing the other and knowing oneself,

One victory for one loss.

Not knowing the other and not knowing oneself,

In every battle certain defeat. (Sun Tzu. The Art of War)

Deep and lasting resolutions to conflict rely on measures beyond habitual patterns, common knowledge, or obvious gestures.  In the end, victory starts with simple, patient gathering of information from direct observation, counting and calculating, studying, learning how things are done, what works and what doesn’t.  Then engaging in a manner that does not perpetuate further conflict. (The Rules of Victory: How to Transform Chaos and Conflict)

(image description: a male figure and a female figure are facing each other and yelling at each other.)