At a recent talk in Athlone, the audience were enthralled with the concept of there being power in surrender regarding conflict resolution.
While conflict occurs in most of our lives, isolated incidences of conflict are part and parcel of the norm with everyday living. It is when the conflict becomes more consistent, more threatening to our wellbeing and happiness, that we must surrender power and change our priorities. Most conflict in our lives originates in the workplace or the home. Then why do we allow conflict to fester and dominate either of the two places where we spend most of our waking hours?
This was the question Seán Connaughton put to the audience. He explained that, by being the recipient of conflict, we are effectively allowing ourselves to be harmed twice. We are giving control and power to the other party. The damage does not occur when the conflict arises, rather, he reasoned, the damage occurs when we accept the words or behaviour of the other individual. Mr Connaughton explained that out of the 39 cases of conflict he has dealt with in the past six months, each individual took control of the situation by surrendering their power and changing their behaviour in order to arrive at a satisfactory resolution.
In freely sharing examples with the audience, Mr Connaughton, who worked in the US on conflict resolution for a year with further training in Denmark and Poland, disclosed that it is his own experiences which help him with his work as a practitioner of conflict resolution. “Accepting continuous conflict in our lives dilutes and dampens our spirit when this is totally preventable,” he said. “Surrendering to the power which is inflicted on us by replacing the negative feelings and emotions with a resolve to ‘clear the air’ takes maturity, and a genuine willingness on our part, if we truly want to reach a state of freedom, absolutely works.”
Words and negative behaviour can be very damaging, but what is more damaging is our acceptance of these negative situations. It is when we personalise, emotionalise, and generalise that we lose control. Individuals who cause conflict in our lives, be they managers, colleagues, siblings, or partners, do so, he suggested, because of a lack of respect for us and, more importantly, a lack of respect for themselves. He recommended when someone is continuously rude, disrespectful, or aggressive towards us we do not have to be fearful of him or her. This is where power in surrender comes into place. Patience with focus are the key ingredients to resolving conflict. Pointing out the impact of continuous conflict in writing is always better received than verbal communication. He cautioned that before you try to resolve conflict, you should sort out the deficiencies in your own life and work style by becoming more responsible through your behaviour and attitude. You then come from a position of strength. People are more respectful, approachable, and open to engage with us because they effectively see a value on our head which was previously a blind spot.
Conflict cannot be resolved by two people at the same time. Rather, he suggested, one person has to take the lead and ultimately the other person will follow this lead. He concluded by advising the audience to “avoid being lulled into a false sense of reality by listening to shallow promises and hollow words. By promoting respect and wanting to instil harmony in our homes and workplace, we have a duty of care to take the first step”.