As I continue to think through this vital matter that has caused world wars, broken relationships, split businesses etc, I have concluded that disputes and misunderstandings come from either of two things: an action or a perception.
Actions are straightforward. When someone acts wrongly, that’s easy to point out and act accordingly to get to your desired outcome e.g. demand an apology.
Perceptions are not as straightforward. What happens when an action is misinterpreted? When people come to the table armed with their biases and assumptions and a resistance to alternate views?
I have wronged people in the course of my life. As a child, a young man, an artist, a boss, a friend, a son, a boyfriend, a colleague, a partner- someone somewhere has been negatively affected by my words, actions & decisions. There are times when I have acted out of character leading to loss of trust.
I believe that I am reasonable. I constantly take stock of who I am and work to be the best version of myself. I am not confrontational, I will always try to reason my way to a mutual understanding. To some, I may seem stubborn and set in my ways but in conversations I push for all angles of the argument until there’s a clear point of understanding.
One of my biggest fears is to be misunderstood. To be constantly working hard to prove myself, show that I mean well, that I’m being intentional about the things I do. No. I don’t like having to explain myself. I do share my thoughts but I wait until the mood is open and understanding, when there is less resistance to possible solutions.
I am attracted to open and supportive spaces, where people don’t agree on everyone’s methods but they acknowledge each other’s good intentions.
Whenever I find myself in a fight, the first thing I ask myself and the other person is what’s the foundation of the argument and what would be a favourable outcome? If the fight is within my close circle, we know not to say or do anything we can’t come back from because it’s important to us to maintain our relationship.
With perception in play, you end up fighting with a person’s fears, demons, past experiences and wounds. If you pay enough attention, you will notice a lot of goal shifting, blaming, complaining and personal attacks ensuing.
I am learning to listen deeper so as to measure the level of emotional investment required for situations. I speak less and make sure what I do say is of value. I am committed to not spending energy on something unproductive that will not result in a win-win for all parties.
I have also come to understand that when we ask people to change, we shouldn’t expect a magical instant transformation. We must be patient and let the process happen while correcting with kindness.
My favourite example of what I’m talking about is the story of Jesus Christ in his final hours. At his crucifixion, they asked him to prove his innocence and he chose not to. He understood that nothing he did or said would change their perception of him.
Ultimately, to resolve conflict, we have to show up with an openness to finding common ground and let go of our own biases and assumptions. Empathy is everything.
There are more empowering outcomes to conflict that we can explore that aren’t fight or flight.
Here’s to world peace!