My brilliant friend John Zinsser, Co-Founder of Pacifica Human Communications, once said in a talk that conflict is not external. Conflict begins internally and we manifest it outside of ourselves. I’m paraphrasing, but that was the gist of it. I feel like this is big information.
The talk was months ago and I’ve carried this unsettling new knowledge around like a cowbell that rings every time I am frustrated or upset about something. Conflict is internal. Actual conflict is caused by my reaction to someone or something outside of myself.
We all live within our own parameters and when those parameters are challenged in some way, we become… what? Upset, frustrated, angry, aggressive or any combination thereof. What I have noticed though, is that when I take the time to consider the conflict in myself, I can usually find a way to resolve it in myself. It’s a new superpower I’m learning to harness.
For example, I frequently use Saturdays to run errands and accomplish non-work related things. I have a list, an agenda, a mission. My 12 year old daughter does not have the same mission. So, when I find that I’ve asked her for the 47th time to get something done and get her shoes on so we can leave the house, only to find that she was side-tracked by a Lego puzzle and the thing isn’t done and shoes are nowhere to be found, I have a choice. I can either let loose my frustration, holler and make us both feel bad or, I can breathe and consider that my agenda is not her agenda. We are not sharing goals, and that is huge.
Recognizing that I was frustrated and angry because my goals were being thwarted was just the beginning. Understanding that she felt exactly the same way was a window to understanding. Once I created a situation where we were both going to get things that we wanted, including frozen yogurt, things moved quicker and easier.
My superpower is in its infant stages. Shockingly, I still cannot bend people to my will by simply wishing it so. I can however, breathe and acknowledge always that my agenda is not your agenda. Then I can consider how to make it so. Super.
LB Adams is the Founder of Practical Dramatics headquartered in Charleston, SC. Her company utilizes theatre strategies to educate and train humans to grow more profitable conversations with other humans.