How To Look At Difficult Conflicts As New Opportunities

We have all experienced conflict at some point in our lives. These conflicts may have had a major impact on the quality of some of our relationships, either in a positive or detrimental way.

If conflict isn’t handled well, it can:

  • Cause high levels of stress, which can also keep us awake at night.
  • Affect our ability to concentrate.
  • Lower our self-confidence.
  • Destroy relationships beyond repair.
  • Result in emotional and financial loss.

Conflict also offers an opportunity to review situations and improve them. No matter how difficult the conflict, it can be made better if everyone concerned is willing to see beyond the current situation and work toward a solution that is beneficial to all.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I remember I once had an uncomfortable relationship with a work colleague, which lasted months. Whenever the other person suggested things we could do that would be of benefit to our team, I tended to be resistant and not very cooperative at all. The truth of the matter was it was all my fault. I hadn’t been willing to create a healthy working relationship because of my perception of this person.

After months of unnecessary frustration, we had a conversation where I had the opportunity to share what was going on for me, owned my mistakes and described how I thought we could evolve the relationship. The best part about it was, the other person was also willing to be open and create a much better relationship. The end result was our working relationship totally transformed to a whole new level. We both created the type of professional relationship we wanted and knew we could have, which was a huge relief and benefit to both of us.

The best way I believe to deal with conflict, is to view it as an opportunity to transform it into a new and better situation. All parties concerned must be willing to come together for the greater good, and also be willing to be open, vulnerable and work through their differences.

Here are five benefits of transforming difficult conflicts into new opportunities that can support us in achieving the outcomes we want. While conflict can really test our intentions and motives, if we’re willing to let go of our own agenda for the greater good, everyone will benefit.

  1. Conflict is feedback that something is not right or not working. If we consider our bodies, whenever we get sick, it is our body’s way to providing feedback to us that something is not right. If we choose to ignore that feedback, it can lead to more serious consequences later in life. Similarly, when conflict arises, that’s also feedback something is not quite right and needs to be addressed. The conflict itself is the opportunity to make things better.
  2. Conflict offers insights into another person’s world. Whenever the way we see the world is challenged, it can be uncomfortable and may even feel threatening. Whenever conflict arises, it helps us better understand the other person’s model of the world. By getting to know how they see the world, we can come up with more effective strategies to transform the conflict.
  3. Conflict can evolve a relationship to a new level. The ideal scenario is, at the end of a conflict, the relationship between two people experiencing the conflict, will elevate a whole new level. It can be done by agreeing on how to work together moving forward or agreeing on how to address a similar situation in the future. Like any relationship, in order to make it better, all parties must be willing to work on it.
  4. Conflict is an opportunity to learn something about ourselves. It takes two to tango, as the saying goes. It is very rare a conflict is 100% one person’s doing. Chances are, all who are affected by the conflict, contributed to it in some way. This is where conflict offers us the opportunity to reflect and grow, to own our mistakes, and by being willing to take new actions to make things better.
  5. Conflict can create a better future. Dissatisfaction is often the creative state. Whenever we are not getting the outcomes we want, we have the choice to do something about it. We can evaluate how we may have contributed to the current state and start coming up with ways to make things better. We tend to be quite creative if we have the right motivation to improve a situation.

Conflict is not necessarily a bad thing. One important thing to remember is people are doing the best they can with the awareness, knowledge, skills and abilities they have. When conflict does arise, rather seeing it as something that is a bad thing or something that cannot be fixed, view it as an opportunity to transform the relationship that will result in a win-win situation for all concerned.

If conflict is not addressed quickly, it tends to fester and create an unpleasant environment to be around. If conflict is addressed quickly, it eliminates any unnecessary stress or tension that can arise from it. Therefore it makes a lot of sense to face conflict head-on and address it as quickly as we can.

Action Step: If you have an unresolved conflict with someone, spend some time reflecting on how you can transform it into a new opportunity that will be of benefit to both of you.

Question: How else can conflict be viewed as a new opportunity?

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