I was watching the PBS series “This Emotional Life” today and after an hour of saying, “Oh – this is so good I should be taking notes,” I finally wrote something down. One of the experts said that in our relationships we should “go toward the conflict” – don’t avoid it, don’t suppress it. “Conflict,” he said, “is where we capture different perspectives.”
Wow. Isn’t that what conflict is about? Two people (or more) with different perspectives? And isn’t it amazing when you have that light bulb moment where you finally “get” where someone is coming from? That the massage he doesn’t want to give you isn’t because he doesn’t love you, but because he has an old hand injury? That’s it’s not about what you cooked for dinner, but about the fact that what you cooked was what he was eating the night his dad left the dinner table and never came back?
This got me to thinking about the conflict of my student yesterday who is choosing a major her father wants rather than what she wants. Instead of going towards the conflict, she’s suppressing her feelings about it, avoiding the topic. I’m sure her parents are wonderful people. Her dad’s perspective might be, “She’s just like me – she’s good at science and math and wants to be an engineer.” He might just not know what her perspective is – because she never brought it up or he never asked I don’t know. It might be hard, but wouldn’t it be better in the long run if she brought it up now instead of two years into college? I can’t say I had the courage at 17 to do that, but you get what I’m saying.
So what’s the conflict you’re avoiding? Why not try to face it, and to learn about the other perspective?