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Overcoming Conflict: Dealing with Difficult People and Situations
by Bob Phillips
Learn More | Meet Bob Phillips
WHAT IS CONFLICT?
Peace is the skillful management of conflict.
Two old farmers bought property next to each other. One of the farmers’ hens wandered under the fence onto the other farmer’s property. After laying an egg, the hen wandered back home. The farmer looked out his window and saw his hen coming back. He went out to the fence and saw the egg. Just as he started to move forward and pick up the egg, the other farmer came to the fence, grabbed the egg, turned, and walked away.
“Excuse me, that’s my egg. My hen wandered onto your property and laid that egg.”
“I can see that.” The other farmer said. “The egg is on my property, so it’s now my egg.”
“I don’t think so.” The farmer insisted. “It’s my hen, so it’s my egg.”
“Look, where I come from we have a way to settle disputes. We take turns punching each other in the stomach twenty times. The first one to say “Uncle” has to let the other person keep the egg.”
“That’s fair.” the farmer with the hen replied. “Let’s do it.”
The other farmer said, “Ok, I’ll go first.” He held the egg in one hand and proceeded to punch his neighbor twenty times in the stomach with his other hand. His neighbor groaned and grimaced with every punch, but took all twenty. He took a deep breath and said, “Okay, now it’s my turn.” He rolled up his sleeves and took a step forward. The farmer with the egg extended his hand with the egg and said, “Uncle! You can have your stupid egg!”
That’s not exactly the best way to resolve conflict, but unfortunately, people don’t always resolve conflict in the healthiest manner. What exactly is conflict? Noah Webster defined conflict as:
- Fight battle; struggle
- Sharp disagreement or opposition, as of interests, ideas, etc.
- Emotional disturbance resulting from a clash of impulses in a person
Other definitions include:
- Competitive or opposing action of incompatibilities
- Antagonistic state of action (as of divergent ideas, interests, or persons)
- Struggle resulting from incompatible needs, drives, wishes or demands
- Hostile encounter
Conflict alternately strokes and crushes our egos, fuels and exhausts our will, encourages us and freezes us in fear. It speaks to a deep, ancient part of our soul that thirsts for power and delights in revenge.
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