Conflict between human beings is arguably as old as time itself. In personal relationships and the workplace, we have studied conflict resolution at length providing countless models and tips most of which are quite good. A different perspective on this matter is unveiling itself based on neuroscience. It is not so much on how to deal with conflict when it occurs, as much as it is why conflict would exist in the first place. The same issue or person could be a problem with one person and a non-issue to another, right? So it cannot possibly be the ‘person’ or ‘problem’ that is the issue. It has to be the emotional value ascribed to the other person or issue by the beholder. Conflict is therefore, not a deductive or rational process. It is an interpretation process which is based on how the beholder is interpreting said issue.
Conflict always reveals more about what is valued by all involved than any rational argument each party may posit or whatever the issue may be. What is emotionally valuable is a variable of what our brain has stored, specific memories that are used to evaluate threats. This is neuroscience. We know this now. There is no other biological or universal ‘threat thermometer’ other than our past memories. Conflict resolution with others can be an invaluable moment to self reflect and discover the impact of the most powerful memories (neurons traveling over synapses) we have. This act is very empowering and leads to better resolutions than trying to argue over why the other parties are wrong.
This week, do just this. Surely some email will come your way or a meeting will occur where your emotional temperature rises. Shift the focus to a process of identifying why your temperature went up. What memory of yours made the emotional value so high of that event? That memory is the tool you are using to interpret the issue at hand. That memory will show up again and again. Unless you make a decision to reframe it.