Do you feel uncomfortable when conflicts arise?
A second way to deal with conflict may be your desire to control the situation and aggress against it. This strategy aligns itself with the Persecutor role, believing it is best to “win” the conflict and dominate rather than be dominated.
The other way to deal with conflict is to be pleasing and accommodating so everyone will get along, hoping the conflict will dissolve. This strategy aligns itself with the Rescuer, the third role in the DDT.
William Ury, an internationally known expert on conflict resolution, calls these three reacting strategies the “3 A’s of conflict.” Avoiding, aggressing, and accommodating.
We propose there is a fourth “A” in working with conflict and that is Accepting.
Accepting that conflict naturally exists was very difficult for us when we first married, because we both felt we were perfectly suited for one another and would easily work through any conflict.
David grew up in a family where arguing was common and very painful, so he developed the “peacemaker” approach, wanting everyone to get along. Donna’s parents rarely fought, and the family motto was “just be nice.” With “peacemaker” and “be nice” as our guide, we were sure life together would always be blissful and conflict free. Boy did we wake-up to a surprise!
When we struggled with disagreements and conflict, we used disempowering phrases like: “This is a can of worms,” or “It’s always your way or the highway,” and the really good one, “You are wrong!”
We had to shift our belief about conflict and that didn’t come easy for us. Eventually we set a new intention to first just listen—and that can be the hardest part, when you feel the other person isn’t listening to you.
Once we shifted our intention to listening rather than interrupting, we noticed we started getting curious about what the other person was saying. It was at this point that we realized staying in conversation as the conflict played out created a much deeper understanding of the situation. Much to our surprise, what we found was that creative conflict clarifies differences and that a new way often arises with a much better approach than before the conflict arouse. As Stephen Covey suggests, it is “not your way or my way, but a better way.”
That is why we say conflict is not in the way—it is the way.
If you shift your intention toward being curious, listening deeply and learning something new, seeing the situation as a conflict melts away. Turning your focus away from the person or situation that you have judged unpleasant, toward a new intention, creates a more empowering relationship with the conflict.
There are times when conflict is emotionally or physically dangerous to you. In those situations, it is imperative that you take care of yourself and seek safety. Most conflicts, however, are about everyday misunderstandings or different viewpoints. This is when shifting your intention can be a game-changer.
The Creator, Challenger, and Coach roles in TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic)® do not deny the existence of conflict. Quite the contrary. Creators have learned to observe their reactive “A’s” when they emerge and have discovered far more resourceful ways of working with conflict. They also see others as Creators and value their perspective.
Whatever feelings you have about conflict, we encourage you to shift and see the possibilities that live inside the differences. The world desperately needs new ways of working and relating with one another.