Peace, or the lack of peace, is often associated with conflict. Conflict occurs when two or more people or groups compete with each other in order to get what they desire. The mules in this picture illustrate conflict.

The problem with conflict isn’t conflict. The problem is the limited way we SEE conflict. This week we will examine that limited way of seeing conflict and next week we’ll expand this view.

Having asked thousands of people what conflict feels like, their responses include: anxiety, stress, anger, frustration, hopeless, fear, defensive, aggressive, hurt, and resentment. When people experience these feelings, they commonly attack, withdraw, judge, protect, criticize, yell, defend, argue, leave, blame, and interrupt. These behaviors typically result in a damaged relationship with more anger and frustration, increased stress, anxiety, and defensiveness, and loss of trust. We call this common and habitual approach to conflict Toe-to-Toe.

As the picture of the mules suggests, when we approach conflict Toe-to-Toe, we see the other person as an adversary who presents a win-lose option to us about some ‘thing’. Between parents and kids, the ‘thing’ can be curfew, getting homework done, or time on social media. Between adults, the ‘thing’ can be what movie to watch, car to buy, or political candidate to support. When we are going Toe-to-Toe, the ‘thing’ becomes more important than the relationship.

Toe-to-Toe conversations are usually marked by interruptions that result in misunderstandings and attacking the other person with ‘You’ statements:

  • You never help with chores.
  • You always have to have it your way.

‘You’ statements are like poking someone in the sternum with your finger. It usually results in a highly defensive reaction.

Handling conflict Toe-to-Toe often leads to no resolution and the problem is buried alive. Like the monster that is buried early in a horror movie, the problem comes back from the grave later to wreak more havoc in our lives and relationships.

Reflect on and identify for yourself how you experience conflict:

  • What feelings do you have in conflict situations?
  • What do you do when you have those feelings?
  • What results from those feelings and actions?

Although dealing with conflict Toe-to-Toe is common and well-practiced, it’s not the only way. Stay tuned for next week’s Wellness Wednesday message.

From our Top 20 team…Kevin Brennan, Willow Sweeney, and Tom Cody.

Paul Bernabei, Director
Top 20 Training