Whether we like it or not, whether we want to admit it or not, conflict is one of the defining traits of eras, empires, institutions and individuals. Conflicts are usually the reason any of these things come into prominence and the reason they fail.
As a result, it behooves us to understand this often feared and resented aspect of life.
If you look up the definition of conflict in Google, you’ll find two definitions that really encapsulate the perspectives people hold of conflict. Conflict is either seen as “a serious disagreement or argument, typically a protracted one,” or “to be incompatible or at variance; clash.”
In my opinion, the first is largely colloquial. Conflict does not have to be serious and it doesn’t have to be a long and drawn out debacle. Ultimately, it is a contrast (often a strong contrast) between two entities. With this understanding, there is no reason to fear conflict.
However, because conflict has elicited strong actions and reactions throughout history, it is natural for one to conclude that conflict must be dramatic and hostile. Even something as mundane as me calling the first definition of conflict “colloquial” is sure to cause conflict.
But if we were to look at how common conflict is in life, we would see that the bedrock of all conflict is contrast. And that by accepting this, conflict ceases to be scary.
I remember when I was in a metal band and we put out our first song. We were really proud of it and while we got some positive feedback, we also received some negative feedback. It really shook my confidence, especially because of how the feedback was pretty scathing.
At that time, I was a teenager who was under the delusion that everyone had to like everything I made; not very different from a four-year-old who must have every drawing on the fridge.
But when I got older it dawned on me. The people who ragged on the song were purists, we were experimental and everyone who had something nice to say skewed more experimental. There were two opposing sides of the spectrum.
When you understand people’s values and you understand your own, the fear of conflict starts to lose its grip on you. After all, there are things you…