Notes From The Furlough: day 72

Presented with conflict, you can ignore it, join in, or rise above it.

Please discuss. How does this play out in life?

I’ll start us out. 2020’s events have provided a variety of emotionally charged issues—the corona virus, social distancing, the economy, polarized political stances, prejudice and social injustice, government corruption, individual rights. We’ve had plenty to feel—fill in the blank here with the relevant emotion: sad, mad, afraid, frustrated, disgusted, judgmental—about. It’s easy to do, and because others may not feel similarly, can lead to conflict. This tendency has always been present in life, but seems accentuated by this year’s preponderance of high-stakes issues.

Today’s message reminds me that there are three basic ways for me to deal with any conflicts presented to me: Ignore the tension, join in the fray, or rise above the polarization to a space of potential understanding. If I ignore it, I don’t acknowledge or feed energy into the situation. This may work well with a toddler’s brief tantrum, but not as happily if my partner has a relationship concern. Think silent treatment or gaslighting.

If I enter into the conflict by refuting the other’s opinions and expressed experience, I’m unlikely to convince them to think or believe otherwise, may actually firm up their stance by my opposition, and likely will leave them feeling invalidated, devalued, and unheard by my denial—gaslighting again.

The third option, rising above, does not imply taking a superior stance, but rather involves changing the nature of the playing field. When I rise above, I remove my emotionally charged reactions from the equation. Hopefully, this creates a space in which the other feels safe to communicate openly and somewhat calmly without fear of reprisal. When I’m willing to listen neutrally, the other may feel freed to offer me the same courtesy. This is the beginning of transforming conflict into communication and cooperation. Today is a good day to moderate my response to conflict!

How about you? How do you handle conflict?

For an expansion on this topic see Chapter 28 Five Ways to Honor the Sharing in my book The Sharing: The Owner’s Manual for Being Human.