Lately, I am having on average 8 mentoring sessions per week which make about half a thousand sessions per last year. I was pondering on what is the topic that comes up again and again? What is the subject that mentees struggle a lot with? As you can guess from the headline of this month's newsletter, it is not the Harmony. So far no one has complained that they do not like harmony and that they do not know how to approach it :-)
Conflict it is indeed. We have been taught that conflict is bad. If you end up in conflict then this means that you already lost the battle somewhere. It is only logical then that many of us develop intricate strategies on how to avoid conflict. Some use humor to ease the tension. Some avoid certain topics. Some convince themselves that it is not even important to talk about this and that etc. Indeed, we do not like people who bring up conflicts. This is a generally uncomfortable topic.
Some think that if you end up in conflict then you must have failed in communication. Just that. There is nothing wrong with how you see things differently from the other person but it must be that you failed to express yourself in a way that others would understand you. If they would have understood you then there would have not been any conflict. So logically I will need to explain myself over and over again until you get it! Sure you have seen such conversations where both parties try to explain themselves to death and cannot figure out why the other party is not capable of understanding you.
In the previous newsletter I touched on the famous “if I am right then you must be wrong” topic. In the world of absolute truth, this must be so indeed. In absolute terms, there should be one right answer to every question or if you prefer a not so black and white picture and have all the grays in between then still there will be a scale on which one view is closer to the absolute right/truth and the other view hence needs to be at least a bit wrong. This automatically means that in the case of conflict I must express how my logic and view fits better for the matter at hand, ie. it is closer to the best answer.
And then we have those well-known situations where even if we do understand what the other party is trying to tell us then we do not want to acknowledge it because we feel that our story was not heard yet. This means even when I would agree with you then either my story will become less significant or I would lose any opportunity to share my view and get you to confirm my own understanding. In such a case I rather disagree with you until you admit that my approach is correct and perhaps then I am also willing to listen to your view which of course means that I am a bit more right than you hence I won my secret competition.
The pink glasses of Harmony
Who would not want to live in peace and harmony? This is our golden standard. Why would one choose conflict if you could choose harmony instead? In the workplace, it is common that good leadership means you remove the sources of friction between different roles and people. Everyone should be on the same page, aligned, and be in cousy state of flow. Beauty and harmony being the keywords for an uplifting work atmosphere. And then someone “brings down the energy” by asking difficult questions and trying to ruin our harmony with a conflict. “We had such a good meeting until you came in and messed it up with disagreements.” Have you ever heard such a sentence?
It is not that different from expectations in the family environment either. Let’s have a beautiful and friendly family vacation trip! The thought feels so good that you have already bought the tickets and booked the hotel before one of the kids reminds you of the reality by starting to complain that why are we flying with only one airplane this time while last year we had 2 changeovers?
On one hand, we desire a state of harmony and would do many things to get our lives free of conflict, then the moment the harmony is there, you will feel boredom. Everything is flowing smoothly, you are on track, the situation is under control, and low and behold - boredom starts to creep in slowly but surely. Being only in harmony results in you living in a comfort zone. It is safe but it lacks inspiration and aspiration to move forward.
Let's take an example of the desire for financial freedom. Many have experienced a lack of motivation to start new adventures once they got into harmony with money. If the source of friction and conflict is removed then life becomes sterile as new knowledge only comes through the medium of conflict.
But conflicts are made of anger
I hear you. Indeed many conflicts if not all have some degree of anger in them. In the slightest case, it would be mild disagreement in your inner talk while at the other extreme it can become life-threatening. Have we been trained that anger is a good emotion? Hardly. It is mostly related to negative and is considered one of the negative emotions. And we are supposed to avoid the negative. As there are no tools given on how to use anger constructively, then most people learn to suppress it one way or another.
Oh, when I shift my focus to positive then surely it is not suppression, you might think. Unfortunately with emotions, anything we do not use will be stored somewhere in our system and that equals suppression. Since anger is related to missing clarity in the situation then it is the primary emotion that is at work in conflicts. Anger is our first messenger to notify us that there is some sort of conflict happening. Now being masters at suppressing anger equals that we are also masters of suppressing conflicts!
By becoming friends with anger you also open the doors for conflicts to be useful. Anger generates the necessary extra energy for us to change our perception and hence is the most useful emotion to work with conflicts. We can safely say that without anger conflicts cannot be resolved.
For balance, you need both harmony and conflict
Balance means that on both sides of the equation there is equal force. Here the import is on the fact that you need BOTH sides! You need conflict and harmony as they are two sides of the same coin called evolution. To evolve we must uncover new knowledge and here knowledge means the information which validity you have confirmed with your own life experience. So it is not a mere theory.
The fact that my view is different from yours indicates that there is a missing piece in our experience. That means a gap of knowledge that we can uncover together. By origin, conflict is designed for both parties to have equal opportunity to evolve and learn something new. The original meaning of the word conflict means “to strike together” which means that you join the forces in the quest for the new. No man can afford to have gaps in his knowledge as this will manifest eventually in some form of a dis-ease. This implies that any form of dis-ease points to unresolved conflict in some area of your life.
If the conflict is used for its real purpose then the moment you have gained the missing experience the conflict is over and its natural result is harmony. If you did not reach harmony then this means that the process is still unfinished. By removing conflict in your business you remove the source of innovation. There is a natural friction between the sales and marketing division and the product development division. This is a good state of affairs as this calls forth the innovation process. That is of course if both parties understand how to work with this friction and inherent conflict.
A conflict that is not brought to harmony is a wasted conflict - all the energy went into defending the respective understandings but no effort was made to explore the unknown between both views. If one creates conflicts for the sake of conflicts and not new knowledge then it is indeed a life destructive approach. Only with conflict destruction follows, only with harmony sterile and boring life follows. You need both to be in balance. You need to know how to arrive at harmony through conflict.
By taking a conflict and using it to uncover new knowledge, we turn something that so far was perceived as negative to be a positive event in our lives. That is the beauty of using the active side of love and will bring our life to a new level of harmony.
Harmony through conflict
How then to get into harmony when starting from the conflict? This question opens a whole new chapter in our discussion as this leads to the area of using our awareness in such a way that new knowledge can be uncovered. Even more so it has to be in cooperation with the other conflicting party which means that we also need to know how to benefit from the awareness of the other person.
Without getting technical let us look at what is required from at least one party in the conflict to find the new knowledge. With this statement the answer is semi-apparent. One needs to be curious about finding the missing link! If no one is interested in uncovering the unknown then no one is taking the active side in the conflict situation to start transforming the energy being utilized for adventuring into the unknown between two conflicting views of the matter at hand.
So first someone needs to become the active side of the equation and start hunting for a new experience in the situation. We can safely state that before one party gets curious and hence active, both parties are passive in terms of leading the conflict into harmony. Now let's define cooperation - what does that mean? From etymology again we see that this means “to work together”. To illustrate this you can think of two people working together with the two-man saw. For this to succeed one needs to pull while the other needs to release and then reverse the roles.
In conflict resolution also the same thing needs to happen. First, one person gets curious and becomes active in learning something new while the other needs to stay passive. And in our example, the passive means the person who is still busy explaining their view of the situation to the now active party. So if I take the active part and want to learn something new then it is not difficult to see that I need to start carefully listening to what the other person was and still is sharing with me. Now that I am not busy explaining my truth I can use all my attention to uncover something new in the view of the other.
While listening I ask myself - what is it that I did not know before? What is new information or experience for me? It can be about anything. It can be about the face value situation but it can also be about myself or the other person. To further transform it into harmony I will ask the other more questions on the same line that would help me to learn something new. Now the passive person can become a very useful source of information and new angles.
Once I have brought to completion my learning and once I have shared my new knowledge with the conflicting party we are already halfway to harmony. My anger is already used up and now when the other party takes his/her turn and becomes active to understand what's new to him/her the cycle can be brought to completion. All the energy has now transformed into mapping out what was hitherto unknown and harmony is the natural result. And it is one level up in harmony as things have now evolved from the previous state of harmony.
In technical terms, we just went through a simple example of intelligent cooperation which means using the active and passive polarities of our awareness in cooperation. A topic for another newsletter should it become relevant in the future. For now, I wish you all the joy in all of your two-man-saw situations (read conflicts) and be curious!
This is our monthly letter to share our views and understanding of what is happening around us, complemented with photos by Anu Martinson. If this speaks to you, hit the Subscribe button to be among the first ones to receive the fresh newsletter in your inbox.