“There was no conflict, when you pushed and I lay down. There was no argument when you took and I gave. There was no battle when you always won at my loss. We could not collide when I chose to give way. There is never a contest between giver and taker. We could have stood side by side, faced forward together, but you preferred my pound and a little more. Call it dissent or call it combative, the choice was always yours. Now there is strife because I choose to stand when you’d have me lie down, because I want my pound, no more than that, yet no less.” – Anonymous.
The nature of conflict, to overuse a word, is a study in its own. Not something easily defined or placed under a microscope. The word itself carries weight and implication, when it is used in place of more neutral or ambiguous terms such as “challenging”, “being assertive” or “standing firm”.
Do we define our engagement with others in terms of positive, neutral and negative only, or are we willing to see them for something more. Perhaps an opportunity for growth of the self, the organisation or the growth of others? The choices around how we interpret an interaction with others is largely ours. Of course, there are factors that will help you determine the nature of the engagement; a gun to your head or an outright declaration of hostile intent is one thing. A person asking you to impinge on your morals or to bend rules in their favour and against your will, can be seen as a conflictual situation….or it can be interpreted as a contest of wills.
If the dynamic has always been one of dominance and submission, of push and fall, a change in that dynamic can make us sense conflict where than needn’t be one. It is our choice. Perhaps an example is best used:
Party A and Party B are in a standing agreement regarding remuneration for services rendered on a regular basis. In this instance, a domestic worker (Party A) who works for a private employer (Party B) in their garden has previously agreed to a set price for his labour R120 per day.
Party A realises that he is selling his labour too cheap and decides to give notice that he intends to ask more for his labour after a given frame of time, perhaps a calendar months’ notice. Party B says no, they will not pay more. A situation now stands to be defined by how each party chooses to approach it. Are they both concrete in their opinion? Are they willing to negotiate a rate that both can live with? Are they invested in maintaining the working relationship? Such questions will help them define whether they are entering into a conflict scenario or whether a mutually agreeable negotiation will define the outcome, with a much less reduced chance of resentment.
Our relationships and interactions too often come down to simplified definitions of me versus you, what I get out of this and if I can walk away feeling like I’ve won, despite the cost. In a world environment so often defined by US and THEM, we stand to lose so much goodness and prosperity, by spending too much time focussing on the personal win, the personal battle and conflict that must be won no matter the fee to be paid around us.
Why make poisonous war, where fruitful growth is possible?