Often conflict occurs because individuals are wedded to their path, their way of doing things, their belief that they are right, that the other person is wrong and that the other person needs to change. You can’t change people, only they can do that themselves (with the aid of a nudge, feedback, coaching, self-awareness and personal will). You can however change how you respond to them. That’s different.
When I work with people or teams in conflict, or coaching people who feel they are being bullied, or even coaching the ‘bully’ to understand and adapt their behaviours, there is a central principle that I put to them….
“You can’t control what happens to you in life. You can control how you respond.”
We are in essence the architect of our own behaviours. The seed of avoiding or managing conflict starts with ourselves – being prepared to adapt our way of doing things, or as in the transcript below ‘our course’.
Below is a transcript of an exchange between the US Navy and the Canadian authorities, off the coast of Newfoundland.
Americans Please divert your course 15 degrees to the north to avoid a collision.
Canadians Suggest you divert your course 15 degrees to the south to avoid collision.
Americans This is the captain of a US Navy ship. I say again, divert your course.
Canadians No, I say again, you divert.
Americans This is the aircraft carrier USS Missouri. We are a very large warship of the US Navy. Divert your course now!
Canadians This is a lighthouse. Your call.