Conflict as an Ordinary and Expected Phenomenon
When I listen to business people and lawyers talk, I usually hear them speaking about the problems and issues that upset, concern, or worry them.
Many people have difficulty accepting that life is filled with surprises, conflict, disappointment, unmet expectations, and change. These things happen—consistently and predictably. This phenomenon was elegantly expressed by an infant I once saw at an airport. Mom was preparing the child for a feeding, and she pulled out a beautiful embroidered bib. Inscribed in large bold letters were the words:
Yes, SPIT happens! What you do with it, how you deal with it, your attitude toward it—that marks the quality of your life.
Have you ever been in a recurrent conflict with a family member or colleague? Each time the conflict jumps out at you, it is impossible to think about a creative solution. You are gripped by your own emotion, and from within this strong “reaction,” there is little possibility of creativity.
For example, one of my college roommates never cleaned his room. I could not think about creative resolutions because when I saw the clutter, I immediately had a strong emotional reaction. A few years later I was confronted with a similar situation. By then, I had trained myself to say “STOP” as I observed myself moving into a strong emotional reaction based on my judgement. Stopping enables me to respond with the focus on a creative solution before the trigger is pulled and the emotion explodes, rendering me useless.
There is no return on investing unnecessary emotional energy. We do not have unlimited capacity and when we hold onto the emotion we are harming ourselves physically given that stress is the greatest cause of disease. As my partner Irving used to say,
“Stewart, you cannot unpunch someone.”
Learning to treat conflict as ordinary and expected is the goal. When you learn that, you can focus your resources on creative solutions.
Creativity in Action
Observing how we talk to ourselves is a key part of learning to live in the principle of creativity. Programming yourself not to use the word problem when confronted by any situation that has potential for conflict is a useful tack. One tack is reframing the situation as an opportunity to demonstrate your creativity. Before your emotions render you useless, think about what would be the most effective action. When someone tells you he or she has a problem to deal with just smile and say, “No, we have an opportunity to demonstrate how creative we can be.” The key is how we talk to ourselves. If we want to see the glass as half full, then our internal conversation must say that—we must say to ourselves that the situation is an opportunity, and not a problem.