Why: The more polarized we get and the more pressure we find on us from the challenges facing society, the more we find ourselves facing conflict. If you just turn on the TV and watch the news, you find that the days of Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley, and Edward R. Morrow are all but gone (with few a few exceptions) and most news are opinions shot back and forth across the airwave bows at each other.
Refereeing at sporting events, even little league games has become a “dangerous” profession, the booing from the stands has escalated into high levels of even physical conflict. At the same time, conflict is a natural part of life – it is what moves us forward. Conflict is not the issue – how we handle it is.
How: One way of handling conflict better is to understand how we approach conflict. There are four “archetypes” for how we handle conflict, each with its underlying strengths and potential weakness. Conflict concerns our relationship to power, so each represents one of these relationships:
“I don’t have any power, and I fear it.”
Gifts: compassion, humility
Pitfall: helplessness, despair
“Others have power, and I need to fight it.”
Gifts: confidence, agency
Pitfall: combativeness myopia
“Power is available, and I can harness it.”
Gifts: vision, creativity
Pitfall: denial of challenges, over-realistic
“Power is available, and we can harness it together.”
Gifts: presence, flow
Pitfall: slipping to other states, ignoring “stuckness”
Think back on some conflicts you have had. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What archetype(s) did you embody during that conflict?
- How did the archetype(s) impact my responses and actions in the conflict?
- What were my needs or what could I have done differently when in that archetype?
- Is there an archetype that I tend to gravitate toward most often and how does it impact my engagement in conflict (positively or negatively)?
- What is a specific action I can take to harness the best of the archetypes when facing conflict?