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Confronting Conflicts – Part 1


Most of us, at some time, have found ourselves in a difficult situation where our "gut" tells us something is seriously amiss. We know we are in conflict, but are at a loss as to exactly what's wrong. This, for many of us, is one of the most disconcerting events of daily life. It is this inability to identify the basis of conflict that can be particularly frustrating.

Having an understanding of the dynamics of conflict helps us cope. There are three levels at which conflict occurs: within ourselves, in our relationships with others and in relation to systems or organizations. The subject of this article is the first level of conflict: conflict within ourselves because honesty and clarity of self is vitally important in all our relationships, on all levels.

The conflict with the self is the most intimate and yet the least apparent of conflicts. If we behave in ways that are at odds with our personal beliefs or values, we put ourselves in conflict (with ourselves.) Conflict would be created, for example, if we say that we value honesty and then, in a certain situation, we tell less than the truth. Most of us feel this dissonance internally, hence our frequent reference, in language, to "gut feelings". Internal conflict tears us up from the inside and the mental marathon of arguing with our selves is exhausting.

In order to feel confident, we must come from a position of strength on any given issue. How we get to this position of strength is by challenging ourselves to identify our values and beliefs about the topic in question. We can then further challenge ourselves by evaluating to see if our self talk and outward behaviors echo our beliefs and values. When our behaviors are in agreement with our beliefs, we are at peace with ourselves. Why is being at peace with ourselves so important? Firstly, we don't have to live with anyone else twenty-four hours a day but we do have to live with ourselves. Living true to ourselves is a means of honoring this gift of life we have been given. Secondly, if we haven't taken the time for the self-assessment described above, we set ourselves up for failure in our negotiations in relationship with others. How can we expect to negotiate with others, especially when we are in the midst of the emotions associated with conflict, if we haven't clarified what we believe in and what we want and who we, individually, want to be? In order to live freely and respectfully with others, we must negotiate our conflicts from a postion of personal power.

Watch for a discussion of the other levels of conflicts and how we can address and resolve them in the next issue.