4 Ways Conflict Is The Ultimate Teacher
What do you think is the purpose of conflict?
Here are a few ideas that come to mind:
- Resolve a disagreement
- Settle a score
- Decide who is right or wrong
- Debate a perspective
While any of the above may be the REASON you have a conflict, the true purpose of conflict is to:
Teach us something about the relationship and ourselves
Bring us closer to the person we are having the conflict with
In fact, we would venture so far as to say there is no point in having a conflict UNLESS your aim is to either understand each other better or increase intimacy, closeness, and trust.
Conflict is meant to be a teacher, and if it seems like class is always in session- there is a good reason why. We need conflict to discover deeper truths and patterns about ourselves and well as those who are closest to us.
Questions To Dig Deeper During A Conflict
Do you ever feel like you are fighting for the sake of fighting? Try asking questions meant to increase depth during a conflict.
Pivoting towards intentionality in conflict might sound like it will be awkward- and that’s okay. Use the language you are most comfortable with to ensure that you are learning about each other during the conflict, as well as working towards resolving the issue.
These questions will help you work towards becoming a student of conflict:
- Why is this to important to you?
- I’m curious if any of this related to your past/background
- How is your heart while we have this conversation?
- What do you need the most from this situation?
- How would you know that your needs and wishes are met and honoured?
4 Ways Conflict Is The Ultimate Teacher
Having no conflicts in a relationship (of any kind) means you are missing out on a source of personal growth and an opportunity to really learn about each other. Curious about what conflict teaches us better than anything else can? Here we go.
1) Conflict Solidifies And Refines Our Own Ideas
When your thoughts and opinions are shaping up against someone else’s in a conflict, it gives you an opportunity to both fine-tune your current ideas and also open up to new perspectives.
Conflict can lead to further strengthening/solidifying your position or perhaps aligning with a new one. Either way, the very act of pushing our own ideas against someone else’s ideas teaches us something valuable and has the potential to bring two people closer together.
2) Conflict Teaches Us How To (Truly) Listen
Can you put aside your desire to win (or be right) and truly listen during a conflict? It’s genuinely not easy to focus on listening for the purpose of understanding, rather than listening for the purpose of responding or retaliating.
Listening asks a lot of us: patience, self-control to reign in our impulse to speak, and the ability to put our thoughts aside to absorb the perspective of another. It’s no coincidence that conflict tests these abilities. Ultimately, conflict gives us an opportunity to set aside defensive tendencies and engage in the process of active listening.
3) Conflict Reveals Our Values
The issues we have conflicts about often reveal what is important to us- or else why fight about them?
If there is a concern you find yourself continuously re-visiting during conflicts, peel back the layers to discover what values are driving this concern. Often, conflicts are not about the surface topics. Instead, they are about the deeper values that may feel threatened.
Through this process, conflict teaches us what we care about and the values that drive our behaviours and decisions.
4) Conflict Lets Us Practice How To Communicate And Negotiate
Truly one of the most widely useful skills in life is communication and negotiation. The best way to learn how to communicate well is by putting it into practice. Yes, that means making mistakes too!
Communication is a skill that requires us to be self-aware, attuned to others, and also exercise self-restraint when needed. The more we engage in conflict, the better we get at these things.
If you tend to be conflict-avoidant, it may help to view conflict as a teacher and not as a dangerous or volatile thing. We can’t deny, however, that many of us have valid reasons to fear conflict and attribute challenging emotions to it. These reasons include the examples of volatile conflict we may have seen growing up or even experienced more recently in life. There is valuable information here too!
Take it slow- the process of re-framing conflict as a teacher may not occur overnight, however, through new experiences, we CAN come to see it this way.
Until next time!
Zainib Abdullah is the co-founder and a psychotherapist at WellNest Psychotherapy Services. Her approach to healing incorporates various therapeutic modalities. She works from a client-centred, anti-racist/oppressive/colonial & trauma-informed framework. As a yoga teacher and student in the lineage of Classical Yoga, she further incorporates mindfulness based therapies to support clients in accessing greater connectedness to their inner wisdom and peace.