Conflict. What comes to mind? In today’s world, we often associate conflict with negative images and feelings. We believe conflict is destructive, unnatural, and unhealthy. In turn, we approach conflict from a position of fear and uncertainty. We do whatever we must to restore a sense of power and certainty in the situation. We push to end the conflict quickly and in our favor, or we go to extremes to avoid the person and situation. Is this familiar?
In this ego-based paradigm, we view conflict as a proverbial “pie” to divide with winners and losers. There is a model I’ve adapted from Thomas-Kilmann highlighting five main conflict styles based on a scale of assertiveness (concern for self) versus cooperativeness (concern for other).
Let’s use two people in the process of getting a divorce for our behavioral examples. Here is an illustration of how these conflict styles are defined. I invite you to reflect on your ways of engaging conflict and think about the impact on yourself and your relationships.
(1) Avoiding – we both lose. One or both parties delays engaging in the conflict by being unassertive or uncooperative for some period of time (or forever). This is the divorce that gets dragged out for months or years.
(2) Accommodating – I lose and you win. I am fully cooperative and unassertive. I want to preserve the relationship so I concede to your demands or needs. In the case of divorce, this means handing over the keys to the car, the house, or even time with the kids to keep the “peace.”
(3) Compromising – We both win and lose. We make concessions and divide the estate equally, giving up things important to us. We may get bitter later.
(4) Competing – I win and you lose. I am fully assertive and uncooperative and pursue my own interests with little or no focus on the relationship. I fight for the house and the kids and will do everything possible to ensure you get as little as possible.
(5) Collaborating – we both win. We seek to enrich the relationship, explore multiple perspectives, and strive for creative solutions. We agree to joint custody and examine possibilities to nurture sustainable solutions.
Notice that this paradigm is based on separation – I and other. Could there be a spiritual side of conflict designed to nurture our individual and collective evolution towards unity? What if conflict is nature’s catalyst to expand consciousness?
A New Conflict Paradigm
The powerful concept of Namaste embodies the notion that we are all one divine consciousness. We are united once we dissolve our egos and with it, the illusion of separateness. We can approach conflict from this empowering, spiritually-based context. Instead of thinking of it as dividing a fixed pie, we can view conflict as integrating different pieces of a puzzle. We can approach conflict as a creative force, bringing together disparate ideas or things for the first time, in a new way. Conflict can be an opportunity to harmonize concepts with a focus on collaboration, creative outcomes, individual and collective growth, effective problem-solving and decision-making. This requires communication and a personal exploration of our beliefs. We must sit with the discomfort of discord, realizing our truths are only partial views of the whole. Through sharing our perspectives and openly exploring another’s, we expand the possibilities for new, creative solutions.
You see, many of the conflicts in our lives and in the world are often about more than a mere dispute over some resource. They often go deeper into our identities… What do we value? What matters to us? What do we believe? What do we hope for, need, and fear? Do you think the conflict over the Gaza Strip is just about a piece of land? Certainly not – it’s about what the land represents to each side’s identity.
In this new conflict paradigm, conflict is an access to greater consciousness and awareness. It is an invitation to explore our beliefs and needs and realize our shared humanity. We are all more alike than different, sharing a common pool of needs, fears, and hopes. Conflict is a wake up call, guiding our evolution. It is an invitation to step beyond our limiting beliefs to co-create new realities.
In the spirit of Namaste, I invite you to step into this new paradigm of conflict to transform our families, communities, and the world.
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Darshana Patel is a Spiritual Activist, Energy Healer, and Founder of Unscripted Way. She is a catalyst in the consciousness revolution. Learn more at http://www.unscriptedway.com.