Written by Doctor G

Conflict requires consent

Hi! consent

Do strangers pick fights with you?

A very weird consequence of putting yourself “out there” online is that you have the opportunity for conflict with people you’ve never even met. And lately those opportunities have been increasing in number for me. Put simply, a lot of people seem to want to argue right now. This kind of conflict – about differing world views – is worth thinking about because healthy relationships and a fully-lived life involve a fair amount of conflict especially over differences in opinions, beliefs, behaviors. 

What does conflict have to do with resilience? Well, resilience is the ability to navigate change towards a positive goal. And conflict is always about someone wanting you (or you wanting them) to change in some way. So to navigate conflict you’re going to need resilience.

I’m lucky enough to work with a lot of camps and summer programs and help them train their staff. One of the things struggles that comes up each year is a camper or student who tries to get a staff person to argue with them. They might say “I don’t have to do what you say!” or “I don’t LIKE this activity” or “You’re not a good counselor” or “Are you in loooooovvveee with them?” or just “No!” And I ask the staff to remember one idea: you don’t have to pick up the rope. What rope? The “rope” that child is waving in your face wanting  tug-of-war with you. You aren’t obligated to engage in the conflict.

Conflict requires your consent.

That’s right – you don’t have to attend every fight to which you are invited. And the lesson here for leaders is important as well. When you witness your people involved in conflict, first make sure that everyone is consenting to that conflict. That everyone is willing to be in this conversation or interaction around a difference of belief. Often what you’ll notice – especially around world view disagreements – is that one person is fully invested in explaining why the other person is wrong, and the other person would like to be anywhere else. They don’t want to have this conversation and – if it’s not crucial to the mission of your organization in some way – they don’t need to have it.

So when there is a conflict over views happening, two questions:

  1. Does everyone in this argument consent to being in this argument?
  2. Does this argument need to happen for the work (or the family, event, etc) to move forward?

Some conflict is healthy and necessary but some is not. Resilience requires us to figure out what we’re witnessing.

Have you noticed increased or unnecessary conflict? What do you do when you’re pulled into a conflict you don’t want or need?

All my best,

Dr. G

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