Struggle with Professional Challenges New York City

Conflict Reveals Character and Vulnerability Strength

Strength and VulnerabilityBy George Marino CPC, CMMT

Getting along is easy when we are conflict free. I agree with you- you agree with me. We have similar preferences and we roll along in our relationship, until some conflict or misunderstanding arises. In these moments, we can really know the mark of a person on how they respond to conflict. In a healthy relationship, both people know conflict is inevitable and they display a healthy character when a conflicting situation arises.

In my coaching and accounting practice and in my personal life, I often meet with a person outside the usual setting over a cup of coffee to share thoughts and feelings about any conflict or misunderstanding with mutual dignity, respect and civility. This informal meeting has often been very meaningful for me and the other person in the conversation. This face to face meeting is supported by modern scientific research as contributing to overall health and well- being for both people in the conversation. What is most important to me in this personal meeting is a felt sense of embodiment. When I am in touch with what is going on internally, I am much better equipped to express myself to someone who may have a different perspective and who is sitting right in front of me. Staying in touch with the inner body helps me connect to the present moment where I am able to communicate with my whole body, mind, soul and spirit. The primary purpose of the meeting is to lift both people up who may have, in their own respective ways, experienced some hurt or pain. Today, the sending of a text or e-mail when there is a conflict or misunderstanding, simply does not communicate the full extent of feelings and meaning surrounding many situations.

However, I have noticed in different settings, sometimes a person is not willing or ready to meet face to face to talk over a conflict. So, it is vital to understand an unhealthy way to respond to conflict. Rather than allowing one to be vulnerable, some resort to control. This is when a high state of alertness is required on our part and to notice how the other person is responding to the conflict, while maintaining boundaries and a sense dignity. Here are the key markers of an unhealthy response to conflict:

  1. Wanting to make the conflict all about the other or, what is often referred to as “projecting”. However, if we look closely, there is much more going on inside the person unwilling to meet in person then they are typically willing to acknowledge.
  2. Tightening up and a contraction in the body while showing no particular regard for the other, or how they might feel about the situation. There is a lack of true empathy.
  3. Displaying anger that has been covertly hidden while trying to hide this discontent at all cost. It is very important in this unhealthy response for this person to maintain a false image of a kind, thankful and grateful person.
  4. Projecting blame and fault on the other for the conflict. There could be mocking, lies, excuses, delays and silence amidst attempts to reconcile and reach an authentic closure and talk in person.
  5. Avoiding the topic or nature of the conflict by keeping a distance from any real and meaningful discussion on what happened in the first place. The inability to handle the slightest criticism from anyone.
  6. A very strong “victim” identity. This could surround family, finances, career, and health to name some.
  7. Having a relentless sense of entitlement. This could center on an inheritance, career, material possession and physical appearance.
  8. Unable to cope when someone may have a different perspective on something including what happened to cause the conflict. Feeling extremely threatened and a lack any real coping skills to discuss sensibly face-to-face what happened in the first place. They find no meaning in such discussions. If there was an image that portrays the underlying discontent with a person like this , it would be with both their hands covering their face and crying. A wounded child with nowhere to turn, or so it seems to them.

The good news is that these challenging situations often lead us to new awareness of our own strengths and mindful self-compassion. This is the healthy way to respond to conflict. We are here to grow and develop as human beings and without challenges we are stagnant. We discover new skills and find truly wonderful perspectives in these very times when conflict arises.

Acceptance is the key leading to a state of ease and lightness where we are no longer dependent upon things being a certain way good or bad. This acceptance is inseparable from the present moment. The conflict becomes part of the whole and we start to realize that when it rains so to speak, the cloud containing the conflict includes pennies from heaven. So, we turn the umbrella upside down- and start to count all the pennies!

Are you struggling to meet someone face-to face to discuss a conflict or a misunderstanding? I offer coaching on these and related relationship issues.

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