As happens on occasion I am reflecting on the work I do. Thinking of ways to improve, add to, and enhance my business. For some time now I have called myself a consultant. It took a while but I finally gave in and started using that title. (To see a description of my thoughts on consultants check my post from March 17, 2011 entitled On Being a Consultant) I will refer to myself as a conflict resolution consultant, sounds, dare I say, racier than mediator, or a stress management consultant, which sounds better than counsellor, or for a real mouthful will introduce myself as a conflict resolution and stress management consultant.
As I reflect on the words “conflict resolution” I find myself thinking that there is a better way to describe the mediation work I do with couples, families, individuals, and companies. Various words, and how we use them, can conjure up negative or positive connotations. An individual who I have worked with in the past does presentations on what I call “stress management”. He doesn’t like that term and calls his work in that area “building resilience”. Just recently I was chatting with another colleague and told her about some counselling I was doing. She asked whether I was counselling or coaching. She went on to explain that, in her mind, counselling dealt with a person’s intrapersonal issues whereas coaching dealt with one’s ability to cope with and enhance the future. Made sense to me and made me realize that the term coaching is more suitable for what I do in the area of helping individuals.
In a similar sense this got me to thinking about conflict resolution. As we all know conflict is part of life. Regardless of the relationships we have, be they with spouses, partners, colleagues, kids, in business, in sports, to name a few, we will experience conflict. And as such conflict is not always a bad thing. One of the definitions in the Encarta Dictionary refers to it as “a disagreement or clash between ideas, principles, or people”. With constructive or positive conflict, ideas, principles, or people can become better. It has the ability to enhance. To improve. To make better. It is when conflict is not dealt with, is ignored, or avoided that bigger and more serious issues can and will develop.
This is where a paradigm shift has to happen. Instead of being consumed with wanting to resolve conflict, often seeing conflict as being negative, we need to view conflict as something that needs to be managed. Not only managed but transformed. That simply means that we accept conflict as a part of life and look for meaningful ways to manage it. And, let me throw another word in here, we need to transform conflict. Again I will defer to a definition in the Encarta Dictionary. To transform means to “to change somebody or something completely, especially improving their appearance or usefulness”.
Sounds so simple. Instead of allowing conflict to fester and grow we find ways to deal with it proactively. However I can tell you from my own personal experience that is easier said than done. Conflict comes from a variety of reasons. Often times our involvement or response in conflict has nothing to do with the conflict. Often times the conflict arises because of other life events. We become consumed by intrapersonal issues and through that our response to others leads to conflict.
In my last post I mentioned the importance of listening for writing purposes. One of the most important keys for conflict management and transformation is also listening. There are others which we can explore in the future but for today let’s make the effort to be better listeners. The best communicators are ones who listen more than they talk. We should listen to understand rather than to reply. You will be surprised at the results. Make it a good one.
“Conflict is an indication that change is needed.”