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How Well Do You Deal with Conflict?

My colleague who teaches interpersonal communication assigned groups of students to present information on each chapter in their textbook. The group of students who were assigned to the Conflict chapter felt they really didn't have anything to present. This was their attitude:

"Why should we present the chapter on conflict when we just avoid conflict?"

Consider that attitude for a moment. On one hand, it's trying to preserve peace by avoiding conflict. However, it doesn't mean that the conflict doesn't exist. It only brings about more separation between you and the person--or community--with which you have the conflict.

This further isolates you from other people's perspective. It solidifies your own sense of right--even if you might be wrong. It makes you more vulnerable to opposing views AND more susceptible to propaganda from those whose views with which you agree.

In this way, we don't learn. We might endorse "diversity," but what does that mean when the diverse views are only the ones we believe to be "right?" How do we know we're not wrong? Where is the "right" in the other point of view?

I do find it interesting these days that if we encounter someone with opposing views--or even views that aren't popular--we just cancel them. We think this ostracism will punish these ideas into obscurity. However, it only shows our immaturity and inability to manage conflict.

In a society, this further solidifies our echo chambers and creates a more homogenous, conformist set of ideas. We don't care to understand how that person's experience shaped their perspective. We instead only care to push them aside so we can feel comfortable in our own false sense of "right." (BTW, opinions are never "right" or "wrong")

This subversion of ideas is dangerous. We believe that if we just cancel those who bring us conflict and dissonance, those people and those ideas will go away. No, they won't.

Instead, these ideas go into hiding. They find dark places to grow. They build resentment in the dark community and create more divisiveness in a society. You don't have to look too far back even in recent history to see when these communities unite and strike back.

Although I consider myself somewhat liberal, I find it ironic that a segment of people on the left are actually less tolerant of those even on their own side. They have an "or else" attitude, which is based on conditional acceptance. You must believe in what they believe or you're not to be tolerated. Your opinions don't matter because they're not the "right" ones they accept.

Progress can't happen if your attitude is "my way or the highway." Progress occurs when people find healthy ways to handle conflict. It means negotiation and compromise.

I see families divided this way. Grandchildren don't want to spend time with their grandparents because they disagree with them politically. The grandchildren are CANCELING their own grandparents, who nurtured them in their youth? Now they want to say, "I don't want to spend time with you because you don't agree with me?"

That's far from unconditional love. It's hating the sin and canceling the sinner. We believe everything is bad about the person because we disagree on a sliver of their beliefs--even if those beliefs have nothing to do with their relationship.

I think back on the many many MANY mistakes I've made in the past. I could hate myself for them. I could hide them or deny them. Or I could learn from them and honor the moments where my behavior created conflict. Those conflicts brought me wisdom as well as unconditional love for those who I disagree politically.

We might not ever come to a consensus, but at least we come to an understanding. We might not change them or their minds, but we can at least question our own perspectives, knowing that they, too, are transient.

And really, the most popular perspective today will become unpopular eventually. Are you ready to be canceled because others refuse to deal with conflict?

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