Evolving Through Conflict

Written by Michael Jospe Posted in Parent Coaching, Wilderness Guiding

Evolving Through Conflict

When working with conflict, in families or between two individuals, my goal is always to support both sides to understand the other completely. This may seem obvious, but it is actually quite difficult for the two parties in conflict to do. There is always the tendency to prematurely problem solve. It’s premature when the problem solving requires effort and there is still reaction coming from one or both sides. There is a pivotal moment in the process when both sides feel truly understood. The energy drops and connection is made.

The listener also feels a positive shift when he or she finally understands. The space becomes lighter and somehow, a new path or solution is formed. In systems theory this moment would be called a “bifurcation”, where the system reaches its maximum level of energization and disequilibrium and suddenly evolves. It sounds intense and sometimes it can be, especially when the conflict is between a teenager and their parent. Getting to that point requires trust in the process, patience, and love. So what gets in our way of sitting the fire with another person? Reactions. To react is so normal. The limbic region in our brain is constantly watching for any subtle micro-expression, tone of voice, word choice, vibe, from the other side that is not congruent with how we are feeling. The perception is so acute and subconscious that we are unaware of it happening (perceiving the intentions of another is actually a survival tactic pre-wired in our brains). What we are aware of is how we feel. Our bodies tell us if we are in resonance with another. When we don’t feel that resonance, our tendency is to protect ourselves. To actually stay with it, as I mentioned before, requires trust in the process, patience and love. I always tell the listeners that their job is, yes, to listen, but is it also to help the other side become more clear and grounded in their truth. They do this by reflecting back what they hear and feel from the other. The two sides may need to go back and forth, maybe several times, until the speaker’s words and expressions feel accurate to them and until the listener can truly reflect (emotions, feelings and words) the experience of the speaker.

So what happens now? Well, it’s kind of interesting. From my experience, the way forward just appears as the bonding between the two parties strengthens through the process. Sometimes the way forward is doesn’t even have a solution, but rather involves more trust and greater communication. Once there is a way, then the two sides can collaborate on being successful moving in that new direction. That’s when problem solving can be most effective. I liken it to the GPS in your car recalibrating after you’ve gone off course. When working through conflict, it’s the commitment to a “destination” of connection and positive relationship that recalibrates us when we’re “off course”.

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