How do you describe your relationship with conflict? If you are like most people it is an unhappy one and a leading source of frustration, disappointment and pain. It doesn’t have to be this way.
Loretta was annoyed by her colleague’s behaviour in meetings. Brad spoke with a loud voice often cutting others off and he always seemed angry about…. well, everything. Loretta’s feelings toward Brad ranged from irritation to indignation (can we all relate?) and she viewed Brad through the lens of ‘difficult person’. As such, she was caught in a conflict negativity loop. The more Brad acted in this way, the more annoyed Loretta became and the more she related to him as ‘difficult’. Which frustrated her even more. Over time this negativity defined her relationship with Brad. On the surface, everything looked cordial enough but Loretta avoided Brad whenever possible and dreaded the times she needed to meet with him. As such, the work suffered and so did she.
As the old saying goes…..’What we resist, persists’.
Loretta’s relationship with Brad was defined by discomfort, struggle and challenge. But what if the biggest problem wasn’t Brad or their relationship? What if the biggest problem was the relationship Loretta had with conflict and the negative emotions she was feeling toward him? And what if this could be remedied by Loretta switching up her mindset toward conflict itself?
It often seems impossible but it is not. By reframing our relationship with difficult situations and the people in them we have the power to literally transform our experiences from negative to fulfilling. Which doesn’t mean things are easy or we won’t feel discomfort. But instead of discharging our negative feelings on others and making them solely responsible, we take back our power, become accountable to OUR actions and in the process focus on better outcomes for ourself and others.
When we focus our attention on better outcomes and relationships they tend to happen.
In my work with Loretta, it was soulfully satisfying for me to watch her develop a more accepting and welcoming relationship toward the difficulties she was facing. Because of this, she found the clarity and courage to approach Brad to discuss his behaviour in their meetings. Not with blame and disapproval (which IF we choose to even have a conversation is our typically go-to approach), but in a way that addressed her experience and the impacts. Yes, that first conversation was difficult, uncomfortable and Loretta was nervous but she was committed to developing a better meeting experience with Brad. As for Brad, he was surprised and didn’t realize his behaviour was having such an impact. He committed to tempering his reactions.
The path ahead was not all smooth sailing, Brad’s behaviour did not change overnight, but by opening up the lines of communication and putting the goal of a quality meeting experience in clear focus things got much better. Loretta’s decision to radically change HER relationship with the conflict she was experiencing enabled her to stop investing her precious energy into resistance and blame and to start getting enthused and activated about creating a better future.
When we give our power away to others we disable our ability for positive influence.
The reality is life has no end of difficulty and challenges. By befriending the energy of conflict we are setting ourselves up for learning, growth, and for achieving the ultimate goal of fulfillment.
PS. Several months after that initial difficult conversation between Loretta and Brad they continue to meet to discuss their meeting experience and expectations of each other. In addition, the entire team now takes time for regular check-in meetings to ensure team member fulfillment continues to be a priority.
Interested in learning more about how your leadership in work and life can be supported through my group programs or 1:1 coaching?