Are You Managing Conflict? – Toby Cowern

What does the word ’Conflict’ bring to your mind?

As I look across a large spectrum of books, magazines, forums, videos and articles it seems many people ‘preparing for conflict’ are addressing, what I would call, the ‘high impact, low likelihood’ scenarios. How to tackle an assailant with a gun. How to fend off a physical assault by multiple persons. How to defeat not one, but two, knife wielding robbers! While I do not want to dispute these situations can and do occur, it occurs to me a few minutes spent looking at the ‘bigger picture in smaller detail’ maybe well spent.

The definition of ‘Conflict’ is listed as 1. (noun) A serious disagreement or argument, typically a protracted one. (e.g. “the eternal conflict between the sexes”) 2. (Verb) Be incompatible or at variance; clash (e.g. “parents’ and children’s interests sometimes conflict”)

When we look in those terms, the ‘frenzied attack’ frequently trained for, is actually quite absent in the true meaning of ‘Conflict’. So we should be asking ourselves, what are the actual conflicts I am experiencing or likely to experience?  If I want to successfully manage ‘Conflict’, how should I prioritize where to invest my time and energy first?

Knowing that a number of the leading causes of stress1 easily fall into association with the ‘Conflict’ category and knowing that stress contribute to some of the primary causes of death2 we should definitely have a vested interest in exploring this idea more.

There is a plethora of ‘lists of top causes’ when it comes to stress, but common overlaps can be found in; Childhood trauma, Personal relationships (Including work related), Divorce, Economic Problems and Personal Health Issues. While it is certainly not my intention to turn this article into an ‘Advice Column’ I am going to encourage all of you readers to just think for a moment. Very often these conflict issues, especially concerning spouses and family, can become quite the ‘elephant in the room’ and actually the escapism offered by certain forms of training can be the coping mechanism to deal with the stress, or conflict, you are actually suffering from.

Let’s just re-phrase that: You are training to defend yourself from a potentially extremely violent altercation, in order to avoid dealing with a lower level altercation. If you accept this premise, you’ll realize this is quite the dichotomy, or at the very least realize there is a significant mis-prioritization occurring.

As I look back on some of my previous training priorities and segway it with my personal circumstances at the time, I can clearly see a number of occasions that this incorrect prioritization was present, to put it bluntly I was training for the potential altercation, in order to avoid the actual. So how am I seeing this now, but not then?

One of the biggest contributors to identifying and managing these personal conflicts was attending the ‘Conflict Communication’ training delivered by Rory Miller. With an understanding and recognition of how various ‘Scripts’ play out, it is far easier to see what is happening, more fully react to and successfully manage the conflict. This training course was one of those that you truly cannot believe how powerful it was until a few days after and you have had some time to reflect. I have had the fortune to attend this training three times now and would certainly encourage you to attend of possible. If you are unable then reading the book will be a good start point.

While Conflict Communications is a powerful tool, it is also more than within your capability to manage other aspects of Conflict that you maybe experiencing right now. All that is required to begin, is to take an objective look at your current circumstances, identify areas where conflicts currently exist and begin to strategize how best to deal with this. They key, quite simply, is to ensure you are prioritizing the Conflicts correctly. I strive to deal with the immediate, before training for the potential.

Maybe the technique for disarming two attackers armed with bats and knives can wait for another day, and a productive conversation with your significant other can happen instead? Instructors especially, if we cannot manage our own conflicts, how can we, in good faith, train others to manage theirs?



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