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Confronting Conflicts – Part 3


As addressed in the last two articles, there are three primary levels at which conflict occurs; within our selves, between two people, between systems/organizations and any combination of the above.

The third level at which conflict occurs is as we move into relationship.

In order to be in leadership of others we must first be in leadership of ourselves.

When authority figures, a culture or a system imply we must do x or y to be happy, a potential conflict is created. As noted earlier, conflict occurs at any or all of the three levels: within the self, in a relationship, and in a system. In any system, there will be requirements for the system to survive. As a part of that system, conflict occurs for us when we fail to play the role the system demands. Potential conflicts may appear in a variety of ways. We may simply choose an unpopular job. Or, we may hold an unusual belief that sets us apart from the crowd and puts us “in conflict” with the norm of the system. Conversely, conflict can also occur when we do play the role the system demands but the role does not fit with our personal vision of who we are. In such cases, one option is to deny the self in order to meet the demands of the system.

Silence is a common behaviour used as an attempt to have the conflict go away. It can be used as avoidance, things can be out of awareness, or it can be an intentional strategy used when we perceive we have the inability to express ourselves in the moment. It sometimes delays but in the long run, rarely works. When we use silence it is generally heard as consent. An example of this might be someone who pursues a high profile career because the system demands it, but is unhappy because, what s/he really wanted to do was to be a hobby farmer in the country. When we choose silence we generally move the focus of the conflict from the external to an internal conflict (with the self). If we refuse to look, listen and acknowledge the internal conflicts we experience, we then focus on the relationship or the system, seeing or creating conflict there rather than looking within.

No matter what we do, conflicts will continue to be a part of our daily lives. Conflicts create opportunities for us to feel, think, act and learn. How we choose to view conflicts, address them and resolve them with ourselves, others and the systems we are a part of, will greatly affect our confidence and comfort in life.

Where is your focus and what are you seeing? As Henry David Thoreau said “The question is not what you look at, but what you see.”

Look for the next issue for “Unconditional Love – the Responsibility in Love: the Love of Responsibility.