We just can't help it. As soon as the ball drops in Times Square, we start thinking self-improvement.
The questions begin: how do I avoid the same mistakes I made last year? How do I become the best version of myself? How do I make this year a year of health and happiness, a year of progress, and a year of peace?
And sure, there are some obvious answers. Start meditating. That'll definitely chill you out. Take up a new exercise routine. Yeah, that'll be great for mind and body. Cut down on refined sugar? Great for controlling mood swings.
But you might just be missing the one thing that could really change your life…
Change the way you look at conflict.
As intentions go, that's a pretty powerful one. And while it may be challenging to begin with, it's the one thing that is sure to have a positive effect on every aspect of your life including your relationships, your mental health, and your happiness.
The butterfly effect.
Think back to a time when you had an argument first thing in the morning, maybe with your spouse, your kid, a colleague, whoever. You felt that tension in your shoulders rise as your mood fell. You carried that fight with you all day. You paid it forward. You grunted when the barista handed you your coffee and wished you a nice day. You ruined his mood. You muttered under your breath at the person who accidentally bumped into you on the way into the office. You ruined her mood too. And it didn't sure as anything didn't make you feel any better.
Now remember a time when a random stranger smiled at you out of the blue or paid you a compliment. When someone asked you how you're doing today and actually wanted to know the answer. You paid that forward too. You smiled right back; you passed your cheer on to everyone you met for the rest of the morning.
Because there's no avoiding it.
Things will go wrong, people will drive us crazy (intentionally or otherwise!) and we'll be faced with situations that make us want to scream and shout like an angry toddler. It's how we deal with it that matters.
Of course there are lots of strategies you can employ to help reduce the likelihood of conflict arising in your relationships and things we can do to handle disputes more peacefully when they do occur. We can practice empathy, we can work on our listening skills, and we can vow to try to understand the other person's point of view before we react.
More important, however, is to challenge your current view of conflict. Traditionally we view conflict as a battle of wills; we expect that to reach any sort of conclusion someone will have to give in. There will necessarily be a winner and a loser. And so often the winner suffers too, feeling guilty at what they had to do in order to emerge "victorious".
This is the attitude — and the misconception — that drives so many disputes to the courthouse.
What if this year we decide to take a different approach altogether? What if we decide that winning doesn't mean one party getting "their way" while the other side backs down? What if we decide that to truly win a conflict the answer lies in mutual respect, in understanding, and in working together?
Imagine we all did this: focus on understanding, on acting with integrity, on striving for peaceful solutions instead of winning at all costs. Imagine we all began to focus on collaboration instead of conflict.
Imagine living in a world like that...
If you're up for joining me on my "collaboration not conflict" mission, you'll find a wealth of information in my previous blog posts, and as always, if you need one-to-one help on any aspect of conflict resolution, I'm here for you.