The Agreement to Conflict
Within relationships we care about, professional or personal, those we hope will keep-up their stride for the long-run, I am inspired by this tool: a contractual agreement for our conflicts.
Firstly, we agree to conflict (n): We are agreeing to be in conflict, as it arises. This willingness reduces or eliminates the resistance to conflicts that often belabors resolution.
Second, we agree to conflict (v): We set up ground-rules and parameters so that when we are conflicting there is fair-play and the best chance to be constructive.
Dr. Clare Fowler discusses and teaches parameters that can distinguish positive conflict from negative conflict. An “Agreement to Conflict” intends that conflict is not-resisted, respected as part of relating, as well as aimed toward growth and deepening in a relationship. These intentions define a type of “positive” conflict.
To me, it is only natural that relating includes harmony and conflict both. And, that conflict is an opportunity to learn from another, to gain understanding and even cooperate.
Imagine if we were “taught this in school.” Imagine that conflictual situations were embraced, the opposite of avoided. Imagine if conflicts were already demonstrated to us as a means – how ever bumpy- to grow mutual understanding and learn from the perspectives of another – both about facts and about feelings. Imagine if we were taught in our early years of peer interactions that along with the “butterfiles and roses” of intimate relating, conflict also can bring us closer, and deepen our love and respect.
My imagination of turning culture and embedded conventions on their head is broad on this topic! Whatever we could imagine needs to be different in order to conflict well, I propose that at the foundation can be a prior contractual agreement. Let’s take a look at what terms need to be discussed and mutually agreeable in order to formulate “An Agreement to Conflict.”
If conflict is only natural (isn’t it self-evident that harmony cannot be the only dynamic?) and both self-knowledge and intimacy can potentially grow from conflict– then let’s start making Agreements to Conflict with friends, family and co-workers.
Want to try? Reach out, let’s meet. I am making a special offer on meetings to draft with parties Agreements to Conflict, this spring/summer season.
Want to try with your own clients? Let me know what you discover works or doesn’t. We can keep exploring and refining this idea, together.
(Note: This is a fictional story based on fact. Quotations are used for literary purposes and do not reflect actual statements made during mediation.) Not too long ago, a mediation...By Gregg Relyea