Dealing with Conflict: Learning How to Not Give Your Power Away

by Sherry Ray, President, Sherry Ray Consulting

“Whenever you’re in conflict with someone there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it.  That factor is attitude.”

William James




Just seeing the word conflict seems to make most of the general population cringe, shake in their boots or shrink into a corner. I wonder at what point in our lives it became programmed into our brains that conflict was so awful.


The dictionary defines conflict as “a fight or battle; mental struggle resulting from incompatible or opposing needs.” I guess those definitions do sound a bit scary.  However, it’s not about being right, anger or yelling. Are you surprised? I know I was when I figured it out.


I enjoy helping my clients look at conflict from another perspective. It provides a chance to come to a deeper understanding when speaking from truth.


“Fight or flight” is a term most of you have heard, it seems to go along with the word conflict. If we feel our personal values are being questioned or attacked we are ready to fight with words and sometimes fists. Otherwise it’s easy to go into the flight pattern, just leave, ignore and hope the issues go away; and rarely do as you well know. No matter what the situation, most times we jump to a conclusion without knowing all the facts


One of my personal examples; I was driving in the state park to the dog area. A woman was tailgating me something furious. I had been pulled over twice in the park for speeding in the last year so was not going to speed up for her.


I waved at her to back off but she stayed right on my bumper. By this time I was angry and wanting to give her a piece of my mind. I decided to cool off, pullover and just let her by. She waved and flew by me. I had made up all kinds of stories in my mind about what kind of person she was (none of them very nice)


We ended up pulling into the same parking lot. I decided to explain why I was unwilling to speed up for her. Thinking we might have a little heated conversation. She laughed and said she had been pulled over several times in the past too. However, today her dog had very bad gas and she was afraid it was going to poop in her car. Now that is not at all how I thought this conversation was going to go! It still makes me laugh.


Whenever you feel attacked or ready to attack stop and just ask more questions. If all you do is say, “Tell me more about that?” or “Help me understand.”  It gives you time to gather your wits, because usually what you thought was about to be said is wrong. Most importantly it’s almost never about us.


Here’s business story that really brings this to light; I was making a presentation about coaching to the board of directors of an organization. In the middle of my presentation, a gentleman walked in, glared at me, looked at his watch and finally said, “Excuse me, we have limited time here, could you get to the point.”


Was I ready to run out of the room? I was embarrassed and sure I had been making a fool of myself, they must all be laughing at me! I wrapped it up, stood tall and marched out of the room. Later I was crying in my car feeling stupid. I stayed in that mode for three hours. I wanted to climb into a hole.


I called back to thank them for allowing me to make my presentation that afternoon. Much to my astonishment they told me they had taken a vote and decided to let me speak at their next annual meeting to the entire organization. I was in total shock!


When I arrived at the meeting, the gentleman that had cut me off introduced himself and said he was the President, had been late to the meeting and not known what was going on. So what I thought was going to be conflict was just confusion and of course didn’t have a thing to do with me!


When feeling conflicted have the guts to honor your own value of truth or integrity to yourself. Be willing to stay curious without taking it personally. Ask questions without attacking. Conflict can just be another conversation to learn the truth. I encourage you to give it a try.



















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