Although the word “conflict” has been shaded with a rather negative connotation, the fact is that it is through the stimuli within conflicts that life provides an opportunity for growth. There is no conflict without the presence of some degree of irritation, but it is the defensive reaction to irritation that extends the conflict and can magnify it into a power struggle — even an all-out war.
Why do our reactions to conflicts so often lead to power struggles or even fallouts of partnerships? The answer can be found in the dynamics of polarization. Whenever a conflict arises the parties engaged will typically react to the inherent irritation by taking a position and then defending it. One party will want to make the problem or irritation go away by changing the situation, preferably into something “better”. This is the “positive” polarity. The Positive’s attitude is to fix it, avoid it, deny it, or make it go away. The other party will want to explore the problem, examine why it exists, and solve the problem so that it doesn’t happen again. This “Negative” will also point out what is wrong with the Positive’s plan for fixing the problem. Before I illustrate how the conflict can be resolved with an optimum outcome, with which both parties are satisfied, let me briefly illustrate a few of the characteristics of the polarities.
- Problem Solver
- “Loves it All”
- Can be Reckless
- Quality Overseer
- Problem Identifier
- Can be Overly Cautious
It is apparent that when these two positions work together, they not only balance each other out, but can integrate each other’s point of view and find a completely satisfying agreement, which in turn initiates expansion. However, a true agreement is rarely reached in this day and age, due to a few factors, which include:
- Defence of one’s position
- Needing to be right
- Fear of transformative growth (i.e. fear of the unknown)
- Loss of one’s comfort zone
These factors keep one locked into a position and turn the other party into an adversary rather than a partner. It is only by leaving one’s position and meeting in the center — a center that is neither east, west, north or south, but rather an integration of all points — that entirely unthought of possibilities emerge from the intuitive, creative, ingenious essence of each individual involved. There is no creativity or genius in a polarized position; only variations of habitual thoughts and reactions. When stuck on a position, aggressively or stubbornly defending it, one is too far from one’s center to access a win/win resolution, and nobody grows. When nobody grows, the company or partnership doesn’t grow. This is true in the boardroom or the bedroom, the high-school council or the United Nations.
To reach the center, there are five key elements that are required from at least one of the positions in order for a transformative shift to occur.
- The Loop of Awareness: Listen to the other party while checking in with your own physical / emotional reaction to what is being said. If you experience contraction it is typically a sign of defensiveness growing inside you. If you do not relax, the contraction will create a filter in your hearing and you will not be open to the other point of view.
- Willingness to be Wrong: As long as you insist that your way is the right and only way, you will never completely leave your position. Righteousness will lead you into trying to manipulate the other party in order to bend them to your will. Temporary victories of this sort lead to eventual reprisals.
- Patience: True agreement takes time. It is a creative, and not only a communication, process. Supporting creative thought in the other party diminishes the conflict immediately.
- Accept that “I don’t know”: Thinking that you alone have the solution, or even that you should have the solution is the greatest block to your intuitive genius.
- Endurance of the uncertainty: Uncertainty can lead to building anxiety, but it also teaches you how to trust the process.
- Willingness and determination to know the truth: Compromise is not an option. We do not grow through compromise. A fifty/fifty partnership is simply a clever way to hold onto our righteousness and defensiveness. 100% / 100% is the only truly satisfying resolution, that initiates skyrocketing success. Creativity over innovation, originality over mimicry. Growth over stagnation.