Within any group of people who cooperate over long periods of time, some amount of conflict is bound to spring up. An agreement to collaborate on work assignments or live with a spouse is often interspersed with a bit of disagreement along the way. Most of us realize that airing our grievances can be healthy, and resolving them is a fundamental step in any cooperative process. But, in the heat of the moment, it’s easy to get wrapped up and carried away by our passions, particularly when we believe our ideals, our agency, or any other factors that support our general well-being are somehow under siege.
For many, it’s second nature to switch into a state of aggressive defense at the onset of conflict. These primal mechanisms guaranteed the survival of humanity’s cave-dwelling, beast-hunting ancestors, however nowadays our reactionary instincts may cause more problems than they solve, particularly when they prevent us from working together.
Perhaps, rather than letting agitation damage our ability to achieve resolutions, we could instead examine the circumstances, acknowledge their causes and clarify our reactions, and then use those conclusions to banish our anger and move forward productively.
The first step toward dispelling a disagreement from within involves re-evaluating the events that sparked a conflict, in the context of exterior factors that might have contributed to our feelings. For example, if a co-worker’s annoying habits rubbed you the wrong way, it may be beneficial to ask whether bumpiness in your home or social life, a previous unpleasant experience, lack of energy, hunger, or any number of outside aggravations might be affecting the intensity of your reaction.
Everyone experiences hurt, insecurity, or fear, and it’s possible that a volatile response to external stressors could stem from unresolved internal conflicts. Those dissatisfied with their own merits are far more likely to approach any collaborative task from a place of paranoia and negativity. Ironically, the moment such people allow a poor attitude to influence their personal conduct is likely the moment their fears about how people might perceive them become a reality. Acknowledging the reasons these insecurities exist allows us to stop scapegoating others’ errors, and deal with our own.
Maybe you’ve vetted your mindstate thoroughly, and found that the issue with another’s behavior is, in fact, justifiable and in need of addressing. If so, it’s still a good idea to avoid an adversarial approach. Even if your concerns happen to be legitimate, wielding your righteous indignation like a club will only force the opposing party into the defensive. Instead, you could try a clear, calm and non-accusatory explanation of exactly what happened, and how it affected you. Do so, and there is a strong chance that the people you’ve conflicted with will come away empathizing with your perspective, at the very least.
While not every conflict can be resolved peacefully, it certainly never hurts to try, especially when in trying we may realize that our agitation is really directed more toward ourselves than anyone else. In the end, no matter the cause of conflict, any resolution reached without having to resort to less congenial tactics will ultimately create a more productive future relationship.