Inner Transition invites us to explore why conflict arises and to cultivate our ability to feel at peace with whatever feelings conflict evokes within us.
Conflict is a normal and necessary part of life. In its healthy form, disagreement shows that people in the group:
- Have moved beyond the first phase of a group, where we’re often careful or extra polite.
- Are bringing the strength of diverse points of view.
- Are able to feel peace within themselves and with each other even when they have different perspectives.
Conflict can also be time-consuming, stuck, draining and ultimately destructive to the group’s purpose, energy and existence. Groups that have good resilience around conflict will usually:
- Spend time reflecting on how to work together – including how to handle conflict ahead of it arising. This may include written group agreements, but the living practice of creating group culture is more important than pieces of paper;
- Hold people accountable to the agreements that have been made;
- Have one or more members with expert skills in communication and facilitating conflict, including when strong emotions are involved (this is a kind of technical expertise just like food growing or building!).
Every group has culture – but if we don’t pay attention to actively creating a good practices around conflict, we’ll end up with the default way of handling it from the wider system, which is that the strongest voice wins out and those who are quieter, newer, or have less rank in the group are not heard without escalating their disagreements to a painful level.
Here are some suggestions that can help with conflict:
- If you’re unhappy about something it’s ok to talk to others, but do so with an intention of getting support to address the issue directly with the person concerned. If someone is talking to you about another person, use the conversation to help them raise the issue directly. Gossip can be helpful if it’s directed in this way!
- Don’t send emails or texts to raise or respond to charged issues. Arrange a meeting in person – by phone or Skype, or in person if possible. If you’re nervous, see if you can find someone to hold the space for you to meet.
- Spend time in your group talking about how you’d like to deal with disagreements. Who has skills to facilitate difficult situations? Who do you know outside the group who might help. What training could be helpful?
Conflict and peacemaking are huge subjects, with many good resources available for individuals and groups. A good experience of conflict can be empowering and even life transforming. Painful experiences can leave long term scars. If you don’t have the skills to deal with conflicts in your group get help. The earlier the better!
Useful models include Process work, Constellations and Non-violent communication.