Why can't we all just get along? Because we can't, that's why.
Conflict rages everywhere and on every level, from global to professional to personal and I don't know what else.
But buck up, Buttercup. You can do your part to subdue the clash in your own life. This doesn't involve teaching others the error of their ways, as so many believe. It means changing your own approach.
To borrow the new language, tell yourself this: even if the other person is 99 per cent wrong, you're still 1 per cent in error yourself, and that's the 1 per cent you can change. Of course, you're probably much more the offender than you think, but whatever gets you through the day.
What the experts say
"Conflict is an inherent component of the universe. Buddhism sees conflict as being stuck in rigid viewpoints. We all have stories about ourselves and our place in the world. When we're clinging to how we think things should be, it takes place not just in the mind but also in the body. You can feel it in breathing, in the nervous system, in the musculature, in fascia. Being attached to how you think a situation should go is a recipe for conflict and suffering. We think we can work through conflict if we have the right tools. But there are some that can't be resolved. How do you accept this without storing the residue in your body and heart? Resentment surprises us, showing up as anger. It's impossible to work through conflict until we accept that it's inevitable."
MICHAEL STONE, Buddhist teacher, psychotherapist, Toronto
"How conflict affects your well-being depends on how you handle it. Handling it poorly affects your health. It raises cortisol and stress levels. If people can't let go of that feeling of being wronged, they become preoccupied. Carrying that long-term affects your sense of self, as in, ‘I'm the kind of person who can be taken advantage of, can't stand up for herself,' etc. The research says that forgiving someone is something you do for that person, but in fact it's something you do for yourself. Be willing to see your part in the problem. It's empowering to say, ‘I can change that going forward and get a different result.' See if you can find a third story about what's going on in your conflict; step outside it and look at it as an observer."
SHEILA HEEN, DOUG STONE, co-authors, Difficult Conversations, Boston
"The madder we get, the dumber we get, and it makes things worse if we react instead of respond. Those successful at resolving conflict are aware of their triggers; they're able to take a breath, a second or two-second break. Then there's ‘the drama triangle,' the victim, the villain and the hero. Intuitively we tend to see ourselves as the victim in a conflict and the other as the villain, and we might go into hero mode to right the wrong. People won't listen to our story until they feel theirs has been heard and understood. Make one behavioural change: develop some curiosity and hear the other person out."
GARY HARPER, principal of Harper & Associates Conflict Resolutions Ltd, Burnaby, BC
"Most conflicts have a flare-up period at the beginning; if you try to resolve them right then, it's not going to work. It's called a refractory period. One of the tricks is to use self-awareness to figure out when you're at a point where you can actually start to resolve it. Later in the conflict, people can learn to approach each other with kindness and eventually compassion, which means they've developed a sense of the other person's suffering. That cascades into appreciative joy, the ability to appreciate benefits the other person might get out of a resolution. In a six-hour meeting, you spend the last 30 minutes coming to an agreement; in the first five and a half hours, everyone is working out their ego attachments. In Buddhism, inappropriate self-cherishing is the number-one cause of suffering and conflict."
ROSS MADDEN, attorney, author, The Three Poisons: The Buddhist Guide To Resolving Conflict, San Francisco