Do you have any insurance policies?
Many people try to protect themselves by putting in place strategies to minimise the impact of an accident, fire or other debacle. They hope they will be one of the comparatively large number who will never need to claim. Disasters are not inevitable, but conflicts are.
So why should conflicts be inevitable?
There are nine basic reasons:
We all have different ways of perceiving things
These varying perspectives lead us to think and experience life in a variety of ways. Diverse opinions provide a thick bed of opportunity from which conflicts can arise.
The problem of language
Let’s assume we all speak the same language (most of the time). English is filled with words that sound the same but are spelt differently and have diverse meanings. There are also words that are spelt alike, but express something different, depending on the context. And there are so many quirks in the English language, that when coupled with variances in accents, the chances of miscommunication are probably higher than any of us would imagine!
Our human potential for misunderstanding
We may hear an incomplete sentence, half a conversation or sometimes only a few words and ‘fill in the blanks’. It’s anyone’s guess as to how accurate what we believe we heard might be. But there are even more problems that make conflicts inevitable.
Our negative beliefs
Our beliefs filter our experiences. Once we have a negative opinion about a person or a situation, we look and listen for things that confirm what we already believe. Hence potential conflict situations may be perceived when they were never there!
Our lack of forethought can cause difficulties
We don’t always think through the consequences of what we say or do. We’re only human after all; we make mistakes. We might not think of the longer term consequences of our words or actions or the impact they could have on others. Most people don’t deliberately set out to upset others, yet upset may well be a consequence.
We violate our own or others values and beliefs
We can see this happening on a grand scale around the world with people killing each other to protect their own beliefs and values. Defending values and beliefs happens with less violence and on a smaller scale in communities, households and workplaces, but conflict is still the result.
Misinterpretation is a common cause of conflict
Many of the previously mentioned reasons contribute to our negatively misinterpreting what others say or do. Then we react as if our misinterpretation were factual. But I believe all these pale into insignificance compared with what I consider is the prime reason conflict is inevitable…
Most of us prefer to avoid conflict
Because we perceive conflict as something ‘bad’, we try to avoid it. Unfortunately burying our head in the sand and hoping the situation will improve, often just makes matters worse. Conflicts rarely resolve themselves but may become the internal conflicts we wrestle with.
And ignoring conflict may extend the potential friction by broadcasting messages to others that we don’t consciously want to send.
For example, a child who gets what he wants when he has a tantrum learns to have tantrums to get what he wants. Other children in the household may follow suit. Unprofessional behaviour in the workplace that is left unchallenged lets others know how much they can expect to get away with. You can imagine how quickly one person’s misbehaviour, left unreprimanded can impact a whole department.
We lack communication skills
Before you start jumping up and down at my insolence for suggesting such a thing, let me clarify my big bold statement. At a recent conflict resolution training course, I had 21 working people. I asked them who had learnt English at school. Everyone put up their hand. Then I asked how many had learned communication skills at school. No-one put up their hand. Not one single person. In fact, I have asked this question of dozens of groups over many years and have yet to find one person who can answer in the affirmative.
Sure we can all communicate well when things are going smoothly
It’s when the proverbial hits the fan, when we’re not getting our needs met or when we’re upset at someone’s response to us that we lack communication skills. These are the very times when we need them the most. The fact that we don’t know how to deal with conflict usually means conflict will inevitably escalate!
With other issues that aren’t nearly so inevitable, we take precautions
It’s not inevitable that our house will be burgled, that we’ll be mugged or our car written-off or stolen. But, we take out insurance policies to protect ourselves – just in case. Being involved in a conflict is more likely to occur than any of the previously mentioned scenarios. Yet most of us do nothing to protect ourselves – except perhaps hope the conflict will go away!
There are other causes of conflict such as different work styles and conflicting goals, but the ones mentioned above are the ones I’ve come across most frequently that seem inevitable.
So now that you know that conflict is inevitable, you might want to consider how you can acquire insurance by learning communication and conflicts resolution skills.
To begin, you can read other articles related to conflict (see below). You could register for the next, The Power of Personal Change – MetaMorphosis 101 training course. I’ll be writing a couple of future articles about how you can prevent conflicts from escalating and how to resolve them.