Sometimes it feels like our lives are filled with nothing but fights and arguments on every level. All of society is locked in disagreement on all sorts of issues, and nothing appears to be getting accomplished on any of them.
In spite of the helplessness we feel, we can overcome this each and every time we find ourselves embroiled in any type of conflict.
Whether we say that we overcome the problem or that we win, we are talking about the same thing. In the end, it’s over. We aren’t faced with it anymore, and we are to a greater or lesser extent satisfied with the conclusion.
It would seem as if we would need to know in advance what side of a conflict we are in to be able to guarantee a positive outcome, but that is really immaterial.
It’s far more important to understand the nature of fights, arguments and conflicts in general.
If we start with a few basic assumptions, it will make things far easier. The first assumption is one you may be familiar if you’ve read any Lao Tzu, or are familiar with concepts of The Tao Te Ching:
To Strengthen Anything: Declare War Upon It
Whenever we resist, fight or seek to overcome something, whether it’s a position, an idea or a group, we cannot help but build their strength. When opposed, people will prepare themselves and in doing so they gather resources, becoming a more formidable adversary. The very act of opposition, conveys strength.
This seems to be oxymoronic. How can we overcome something without resisting it.
We can understand this by moving on to our next assumption, which we get from the NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) assumptions:
Everyone Is Doing The Best They Can With The Resources Available To Them
At heart, each of us wants the same thing: To be happy.
This means that regardless of how strongly we disagree with anyone, our basic motivation is the same.
You can test this out yourself quite easily.
Pick out any one of your goals in life and ask yourself why you want to achieve it.
After you answer that question, continue to ask yourself the same question about the answer:
Why do I want that?
If you continue to do this with each successive answer, you will eventually end up with the answer:
Because it will make me happy.
There is not one person this is not true for. Everyone wants to be happy, but each of us defines happiness to a greater or lesser extent the same way. So why do we disagree so strongly at so many levels?
Perhaps a better question is to ask is:
Do we actually disagree that strongly at so many levels?
You guessed it! Next Assumption:
Opposing Sides Will Always Define Their Opponents In Terms Of Their Own Priorities
In any conflict, explaining someone else’s position isn’t useful in accomplishing their own. It will stress their priorities on an issue and ignore the other party’s, omitting key concerns in the process.
This is universal and unavoidable. You can never understand someone’s position on any issue by listening to those they argue with. It simply doesn’t work.
We know from our second assumption that both sides of any fight want the same thing (to be happy). Being human beings, the same things tend to make us happy.
We are seldom really as far apart as we think we are.
This brings us to our last assumption:
(Then we will start applying them)
Our Definition Of Winning Any Fight, Argument Or Conflict Is That It Is Gone
For it to be gone, simply means that we no longer experience it as a conflict. It has been resolved in our own minds satisfactorily.
The other party need not be overcome, vanquished, destroyed of beaten.
Does this mean that all issues involved in the dispute have been solved, and solved in favor of your position?
Not necessarily. It does mean that you have come to understand that they are not always at odds (as we will see).
Application: Let’s Put These To Use!
What we’ve taken as assumptions here will obviously require that we approach situations where we are at odds with people in a unique and new way.
- Instead of viewing other viewpoints as opposition or even enemies, we begin as people concerned about the same topic. We are already on common ground as we have interests that intersect.
- There is no need to vilify anyone, because each of us has the same motivations. This is a tough one for many because they refuse to see other priorities as valid that differ from their own. Differing priorities are what 98% of all conflicts are about.
- Listen to the position of those you disagree with closely to see if there are ways to accommodate each priority even partially. This is nearly always possible. When not possible, accomplishing one completely with strong recognition and work toward the other priority is always possible. Always recognize other priorities as legitimate. Contrary to popular opinion, this is always possible.
- You can always accomplish the above for yourself. You may not be able to get others to do so. If you cannot, then you have seen at this point that the issue at hand is not of the nature you thought it was. It is about something else, and therefore you cannot address it. The initial issue is gone. You have won because you have escaped the initial fight, argument or conflict.
That last step may seem like a dodge, or loophole right now. It is not…
Our world is filled with conflicts that seem insurmountable such as terrorism, nuclear arms, gun control, hunger, healthcare, abortion, the safety of our food supply and a list that goes on and on.
We are also party to constant interpersonal disputes every day which rob us of our peace, our time and thus our lives.
When you’ve applied the above steps to any situation (micro or macro) one of two things will happen. You will either come to an agreement on how to proceed on the matter at hand, or there is one other possibility.
You will come to understand that the other parties involved are too dedicated to the process of constant conflict to allow a resolution.
At this point they aren’t even involved in the same issue that you are. Further involvement on your own part is not just futile, it is allowing yourself to be infected with the same affliction.
Becoming involved in a conflict should only be about the stated issue or it is pointless. If you cannot engage on the real issue, then there is no point in continuing. We will discuss what to do about the base conflict that such people are involved with in another article to be published soon.
Choosing not to participate at this point is not admitting defeat, it is about choosing to achieve your own stated goal of Happiness!
Which is winning by anyone’s definition.
You will frequently left with an issue that you care about. There are always opportunities to address things we care about in positive ways having nothing to do with those with differing priorities. Meditate on this and you will see the truth here.
There have been multiple references here on this site to the nature of Conflict and it’s basis always being illusion.
Understanding this will free you in ways you cannot even dream of to address what you care about in life. Whenever you become embroiled in anything that takes away your peace, look for the illusion. It is there…