Our past DOES NOT have to dictate our future, however IT WILL if we do not take some time to reflect on our experiences and how they have shaped us - who we are, what we believe and how we think.
This applies to our history of conflict. Conflict is a subject that people have varied reactions to. Some find conflict incredibly confronting and emotionally overwhelming, others figure “best not to get involved” and don’t deal or resolve anything, while others view conflict as an opportunity.
Where do you sit in the spectrum of your response to conflict? What have you learned in childhood, as you grew, and in your adult experiences about what conflict is; acceptable behaviours within conflict; what outcomes to expect from conflict, etc? Understanding how you view, respond and think about conflict gives you the power to be intentional about changing those thoughts and responses, if they are not serving you.
Here are 6 ways your past experience of conflict IS impacting you, whether you realise or not, deny it or not, like it or not:
1. Your belief about conflict and how functional it is. Did you witness or have you experienced healthy functional conflict? If so you are likely to have a positive approach toward conflict now, you have seen and experienced the benefits that come from resolving issues and moving forward with increased understanding. You are willing to invest in the conflict process because you believe it’s effective. Have you experienced deep hurt as a result of conflict? If so it is likely you will be apprehensive – for fear of being hurt again – about entering into conflict. You are also likely to doubt that any value will be gained from entering into conflict, and thus will make extensive attempts to steer clear of it.
2. Your emotions around conflict. What past emotions have you experienced during conflict? It is likely that most of us experience some anxiety when dealing with conflict – let’s face it, no matter how well equipped we are, it is never an easy process. But what levels of anxiety do you face? Is that anxiety linked with fear? Or a belief that conflict is “bad”? And to what extent are the emotions you experience around conflict, controlling your behaviour? You don’t have to allow your emotions to dictate how you behave. You can recognise them, name them, and sit with them until they pass.
3. The attitude you go into conflict with. Depending on what you believe about the functionality of conflict, will depend how your attitude sways when confronted with it. Is your attitude positive – hoping to achieve understanding for both parties. Is your attitude nonchalant, therefore you won’t genuinely invest in the process and aim for a positive outcome. Is your attitude aggressive, because you fear being hurt, so have to go in “attacking”? Or is your attitude generally negative because you have not witnessed or experienced functional conflict before?
4. The results you expect and experience. For all the reasons listed above from 1 through 3, the results you expect as you go into conflict, you are likely to receive. This is because your beliefs, emotions and attitude will direct you toward those results. IF on the other hand, you become more purposeful, going into a conflict with awareness of your beliefs, emotions and attitude, and intention around how you want to shape those three DURING the process, you are much more likely to gain a positive result.
5. The depth of your relationships. If you avoid conflict all together, or you have a negative attitude toward it, or believe nothing good comes from it, you are limiting your ability to experience depth in your relationships. Conflict is an opportunity for you and the other party - in the most important case your intimate partner and immediate family – to increase your understanding of each other and come to a deeper level of connection. Refusing to engage in conflict prevents this from occurring.
6. Your level of happiness and contentment. To make it plain, the research and experience indicates that if you restrict the depth of your connection with “your people” you limit your life expectancy, mental and physical health outcomes. Connect with your people on a deeper level….. and if that means allowing yourself to experience conflict with your partner, I dare you!
Whether your thoughts and responses to conflict are positive or negative, they are still “baggage” that you bring with you to your next conflict. Identifying what it is you are carrying with you and how it is influencing you and projecting into your next conflict, empowers you to think/act differently if you choose. Some of your projections may be completely unwarranted and unrelated to any current conflict you may experience, thus they are hurting your ability to see the conflicts in your life with fresh eyes, and to treat them on their own merits. Recognising how you are influenced means you have the power to choose whether you will continue on, or change your course for a better outcome.
Kristy is the founder of Wellbalance. She is inspired to motivate leaders and workplaces toward proactive, effective and productive communication with their people, to achieve positive outcomes for all. Kristy enjoys long walks on the beach and holding hands at sunset (just joking - actually not really!) Kristy thrives on seeing relationships reach their full potential, and celebrates when people come to understand their true value - to love their flaws, accept their perceived failings and grow beyond these. She believes that the entire human race are healthier and happier when they CONNECT - with their people, GROW - in their self awareness and ability to engage with others, and LIVE - life to their full potential.