Have you ever been involved in a conflict, thought it was resolved, and then sometime shortly after you had that thought, it just blew up in your face?
We all have, and from my observations, we all are about to be. Since Joe Biden was pronounced the winner of our contentious election, I have never heard so loud a collective sigh since… oh, I know when, since the 2016 election results. Yes, those who supported Donald Trump breathed that same collective sigh… that “all would start to be right with the country” sigh.
Sound familiar? Yes, that’s the problem, it is all sounding way too familiar which means that what I see too often in conflict is exactly where we are. We have unresolved conflict in this country and far too many of us do not even see that we are about to go down the same road we have already been down before because we are not seeing what needs to be seen.
Oh, we see the “us versus them” conflict, the “good versus evil” and the Democrats vs. Republican conflicts and the options being posed for them to ignore, block or push away. But do we see how closely our perspectives mirror those we vehemently disagree with?
“This country needs to change back… this country has a lot of people who do not agree with my point of view… what has happened to human decency?”
All phrases being expressed by both sides if we are really listening, that can be a scary and even offensive notion for those of us subscribing to the “I’m not anything like them” perspective.
“But I’m not like them.” I can hear you from here. I get it and yet here we are with too much unresolved conflict to really move forward in significant enough ways to not be right back here again in four years, eight years, ten years or whenever we are ready to learn the way out.
What I know about unresolved conflict is that it never really goes away. It festers, goes underground, and then regroups and continues to come back at you until you acknowledge it and finally deal with it.
So, what do we do?
1. Know where we are and expect the conflicts to continue. This may seem obvious particularly for those who are ready for a fight. So yes, I acknowledge that in some ways it is obvious but understanding that unresolved conflict is not going to go away through “cancel culture” is an important part of this journey.
2. Make gaining solid conflict resolution skills a real goal for you in this upcoming year. Often, we see investing in learning how to handle conflict productively, as something we can put off because it is an “extra.” But gaining mastery in this area is useful in every area of our lives. It enriches our relationships, conversations, and resolves conflicts over time.
3. Recognize the power of “one” and “on the ground work.” Take on the challenge of moving things forward in your day to day world. Who are the people that you connect with that you have your own unresolved conflicts with and what can you learn from the experiences of working to engage with them and have the conversations?
These don’t have to be the most heated conflicts in your life. Have you and your co-worker had that conversation about how working together is going? Are you and your child/children communicating better and more frequently? Maybe it is you and your significant other or your neighbor? Clean up your own day to day unresolved conflicts and experience the power of one.
4. Understand that “getting back to normal” is not the goal. The business of normal will no longer serve us because “normal” got us into this mess and it cannot get us out. What can we all create that is new and that will move us forward collectively? That is a HUGE question that cannot be answered by giving up on half of us. You can gladly ignore this now, but eventually, it will need to be faced. Trust me.
This is not a moment to stand in. It is a moment to ACT in ways that stretch us beyond what we have been used to even if we feel incredibly stretched already. The work that you are doing now must be continued. The work that you have yet to do must be contemplated and completed. The work that I have yet to do must be contemplated and completed or surely our children and grandchildren will find themselves back here trying to resolve these same unresolved conflicts.
And from what I know about unresolved conflict, you can count on it!