- Ricka Robb Kohnstamm
What would be possible if we were both right?
I see conflict everywhere this week... big conflict, small conflict, explosive conflict, avoidant conflict, geographic conflict, policy conflict, organizational conflict, familial conflict, relationship conflict, personal inner conflict and the list goes on and on.
The line from the movie Matilde plays on repeat in my mind: "Listen, you little wiseacre: I'm smart, you're dumb; I'm big, you're little; I'm right, you're wrong, and there's nothing you can do about it."
Power over is so old school and doesn't work, at least in the long run.
What would happen if we approached inevitable conflict as "we are both right" and then focused our hopped-up energy on identifying, normalizing and building on commonalities, instead of differences? What would be possible?
"We both believe in the mission of this organization and we both care deeply about the people we serve. We both have have advanced degrees and experience in different areas of expertise, we both want to stay deeply involved. We are stuck in determining next steps that allow us to do what we do best, without making each other crazy; what else is possible?"
"We both love this family and we both care deeply about the health and wellbeing of our children. We both believe in values that include trust, respect and honesty. We both put the the needs for our children's safety above our own needs to advance in our careers. We are stuck in our decision about whether or not both of us can work full time days and if we can even stay in this same city; what else is possible?"
"We both love take-out and documentaries and we both value time together and alone. We both value a creative, spacious mindset and we are both as far away from that as it gets. We are stuck in feeling pushed and pulled by all of the demands on our time; what else is possible?"
So consider these things...
Cool down. No one is capable of spacious thinking when they are hot under the collar. Pause to cool down. Take an hour or a day or a week or a month. Be kind to yourself and the other person. Then pull back together at an agreed upon time and come prepared to listen.
Speak. And then listen, with kindness, for what's under the surface. Most of us find talking about ourselves and defending our own positions to be a lot easier than listening. Practice both. Speak your truth from a place of strength, with the goal of being understood. And then listen to the other person, without jumping into defense posture. Listen to the words, and also listen for what you hear underneath the words. "I am afraid." "I am overwhelmed." "I am lonely."
Remember your ultimate goal. What is the ultimate goal? Is the goal to continue to build your partnership? To continue to successfully grow the business? To make sure your child feels secure and cared for? Take some time to consider your ultimate goal so that you keep that dot on the horizon.
Conflict is inevitable. What we do with conflict, particularly by shifting to a "what can happen if we are both right" mindset, makes all the difference in supporting what is possible.
Actions, aligned with values, support optimal health.