I was listening to an audiobook detailing the ways to handle conflict in the workplace. It simplified this complex human construct by organizing the attributes of conflict into lists, such as the types of things people disagree about, and the range of preferences people have when in conflict. For example, there are two different preferences when it comes to managing conflict: avoidant and available, and there are five different groups of what people disagree about: personal (such as lack of respect), status (who has control), direction (who decides), and so on. Everything that possibly influences or defines conflict was defined in a very exacting and analytical way. And after listening to the entire book, I was overwhelmed with the details of what I would need to master just to have a conversation with someone I disagreed with!
Because each and every one of us has interacted with other humans, we know conflict intimately. We know what makes our skin crawl, pushes our buttons. We also have a good sense of what will make others react the same way, especially those that we are close to.
But we are all different and respond to conflict in unique ways because of our individual belief systems, our emotional and physical states, and our perceptions and realities of the situation at hand. It will always be asking the question: how will you respond?
But what exactly is conflict? If you are upset with someone, they may not even be aware. In this situation, the conflict only exists within you. The question of how to respond is based on your interpretation of the conflict. If you perceive your emotional reaction to be the fault of the other, then you are left with the task of changing the other’s behavior. But the conflict only exists within you. Is it reasonable to expect another to make you feel better?