Conflicts are painful and scare. It is tempting to avoid them. On the other hand, if I consider conflicts as something that is fundamentally part of life and growth, then I will develop myself. I can be open and curious again. This involves researching three perspectives: my own, those of the other person, and the conditions that contribute to our conflict. You also find that interpersonal or internal conflicts are difficult to endure and try to avoid them if possible? Then welcome to the club. Would not it be nice to live in a world without these conflicts? It probably depends on how you look at a conflict.

How you look at a conflict:

Quick solutions to reduce pain and anxiety

If you are primarily aware of the pain and anxiety that a conflict causes in you, then it makes sense to seek a quick fix. So why not quickly agree with what you would actually reject; why not give in quickly so that everything is harmonious; or why not quickly prevail where you have more power; or ignore the one with whom you are experiencing a conflict?

Yes, such quick fixes have the distinct advantage of not having to endure the intense feelings and pain of a conflict at the moment. Instead, you bypass all the issues associated with the conflict; these issues are often hard to bear - feelings of addiction or lack of self-esteem may be affected; and not infrequently, conflicts go straight to the roots, their own identity, their own roles and expectations.

An example

I take an example from myself: how many internal and external conflicts I experienced alone, that I moved from Hamburg to Copenhagen a few years ago. All of these conflicts had to do with my identity, in this case my origin, my language, my culture, my job and my new role as father.

Find the solutions

During this time, I met several other foreigners who seemingly elegantly solved this problem: They told me that you had "sacrificed" or "abandoned" your culture, or that your future was "exclusively" in Denmark. Oh, how I wanted to be happy - and how reluctant I was to find the solutions they had come to expect.

Transformation instead of fast solutions

No, there were no quick fixes. Rather, I learned (once again) that conflicts can be viewed from two fundamentally different perspectives.

  • The conflict is a problem that I have to solve as quickly as possible in order to get away from the pain and the violent feelings. The conflict has little to do with me and my growth.
  • The conflict is intense and painful, and I take time to explore and get to know it, to become clearer and grow. I see the conflict as an opportunity to learn something new and go directly to it.

In Example 1, I probably perceive the conflict, in particular the pain or the violent feelings such as fear or anger. In Example 2, I perceive the conflict as something that makes me curious to know more.

The three perspectives to explore the conflict

This "more" I'm interested in ultimately consists of at least three perspectives.

The first view is my own, as I experience the conflict at the moment. What is important from my perspective? What are the reasons for this conflict? What is going on in me?

Second, I can look at the conflict from the perspective of the other person (s) - how does she experience this conflict? How does this person experience me in this conflict? It is also possible to ask how an outsider would describe the conflict.

Thirdly, it makes sense to take a somewhat broader perspective: Are there any other factors that play a role here? Do cultural differences matter? Is there an indirectly involved, other group or structures, eg the family or the workplace?

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Important in these questions is that it is not about truth or right. You can assume that there is always something to be completed and still more perspectives. It's about the process of describing and exploring that helps you find more than "quick fixes".

In the long term you will learn to understand conflicts as learning opportunities and actively seek them instead of avoiding them.

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