Most of us are uncomfortable with conflict. How to handle conflict is vital in all our relationships. Yet when someone does not like confrontation or conflict it can be a sign of a weak ego self.
Conflict needs a strong ego
When we are secure in our self, we are less bothered about what others think, or less preoccupied with others liking us. Paradoxically this takes a strong ego, so we need to build the scaffolding of the ego self (false self) so that it is strong enough to take criticism, dislike and confrontation. But any strength becomes a weakness if it is over used. So at some point we begin the journey of shedding ego to find the authentic self inside.
Being less bothered about being liked
I have noticed myself saying, these days, ‘I’m not that bothered whether or not someone likes me or not, or what they think of me: if they do, great, if they don’t, so be it.’ I am more comfortable being authentic. Sometimes that means that I upset others; and here I need to tread carefully.
The five freedoms
This reminds me of Virginia Satir when she talks about the ‘5 Freedoms of becoming more fully human’:
- The freedom to see and hear what is here, instead of what “should” be, was, or will be.
- The freedom to say what you feel and think, instead of what you “should” feel and think.
- The freedom to feel what you feel, instead of what you “ought” to feel.
- The freedom to ask for what you want, instead of always waiting for permission.
- The freedom to take risks on you own behalf, instead of choosing to be only “secure”and not rocking the boat.
How to handle conflict
I rocked the boat recently. When I was teaching a local group, an attendee made a complaint against me. The complaint was about something that they insisted that I ‘said’ – though I never said it, it was certainly a of twisting of my words- yet, if I really second positioned this person and where they were coming from, I could understand their perspective. So, I had to look inside at what motivates us to be kind to or understanding of others.
Many of us act out of self interest: we are kind to others to please them or keep them happy, or we are motivated by a need to have others like us. So in the act of kindness or consideration or helping others, the motivation is actually self-interest. What might be termed ‘unenlightened self interest’. Of course, it does seem to benefit the other; they are happier perhaps because of our kindness. But when we look deeper, we are acting in this way, somehow, to make ourselves feel better. It is a kind of manipulation, we are playing the politician or the actor, and seek approval or reputation management. We fear others’ judgement, anger or disapproval.
Making a stand
Ok up to a point, perhaps. But what about when that leads to us to pay for this in the cause of our own self interest? After the complaint, I apologised for how the member took it and said that this learning would teach me to be even more sensitive in future. I could have left it at this and everyone would have been happy. Yes? I may have well had an easier life – and not lost an income stream!
But I noticed that this organisation treated other teachers/trainers in a way that did not seem to honour their rights; they put the members rights as priority. And I felt it important to make a stand and ask for some closure, some mediation on this complaint (which was verging on slander in some respects). I asked for my voice to be heard. When they refused and just insisted they were passing on some ‘feedback from a member’ , I gently stated my case and resigned. The process was confrontational and had some conflict. But if overall, it helps the club to think about their process for fairness, it might contribute to making other teachers and instructors happier in the long run.
So what’s my point? It’s about Enlightened self interest. I am not talking about acts of altruism (I’m certainly no saint), where we personally suffer through acts of kindness but that by acting to further the interests of others (or the interests of the group or groups to which they belong), we ultimately serve our own self-interest. In a way, we will “do well by doing good”. Our motivation comes in part by self-interest—not selfishness but enlightened, generous, self-interest. In this way we contribute to the happiness or wellbeing of the majority rather than the minority.