Life is a Contact Sport

There’s a lot of pushing and shoving in the game of life, and there are a lot of wounds
that result from conflict. You cannot move through life, with your eyes on a goal, and
avoid contact. To have a successful life, you must have the mindset that the conflicts
you encounter can have results that are beneficial, rather than damaging.

Human interaction and contact can quickly escalate to conflict, and so much trouble is
born in those moments when people lose control. We see this too often. In sports,
teams lose control and the benches are cleared for an all-out brawl. Then players get
ejected. On the highway, angry drivers lose control and exhibit road rage. Then
accidents happen. In relationships one person loses control and abuse occurs. Then
someone gets hurt. At this point, normal contact has exceeded proper boundaries.
These are situations that need intervention, and in some cases, significant help. When
conflict goes too far, things are said and done that will be regretted for a lifetime.

Often in everyday life, we are so stressed, pressured, and rushed that hostility simmers
just below the surface and can erupt at the slightest offense or inconvenience.
Sometimes we find ourselves on a full collision path with those around us. I believe it is
critical to have a plan in place for those times of collision - those inevitable times when
you do not agree, when there is dissension, or even when you find yourself in the midst
of an outright controversy.

I have a mental checklist that I run though when circumstances begin to heat up, and
this plan has helped me many times to slow down and make a wise choice rather than
to rush headlong into a situation where my initial reactions or words could be very
damaging. I use the acrostic ‘SLOW’ for conflict resolution, and the word itself is a
reminder that to rush is often to stumble.

S - STOP
Just stop right where you are. If you are in a location that is creating immediate tension,
remove yourself immediately. You need a few minutes, or perhaps longer, to make sure
you have a handle on yourself and your own emotions before proceeding. Get away
from the source of trouble.
Go to another room, go outside, or, if none of these options
are available, at least shut down – no talking – and take several moments to compose
yourself. It is essential that you are in control of your own thoughts, actions and
reactions. You are responsible for yourself. Don’t let someone goad you into rash action.
Stop and regroup.

L - LISTEN
Very often conflict and collisions arise because of miscommunication. Don’t let that be
the case for you. Go back to the person with whom you are disagreeing and start the
conversation over. This time, don’t interrupt, don’t interpret and don’t infer. Just listen
to them. Hear them out. Sometimes people just want to be heard. No matter if this
resolves the situation or not, you will be miles ahead because you have taken the time
to hear their side. Then you will know if perhaps they misunderstood or got bad
information. You will at least know their position. Listen carefully and intentionally.

O - OPTIONS
The biggest skill in conflict resolution is to be able to reach a compromise through
options that are acceptable to both sides. If you can work with the other party to create
a plan where both of you leave knowing you are better off, you will win. This means you
must have options. Your way may not be the right way, and is certainly not the only
way. You must treat the other person with the same respect that you wish to receive,
and come up with a plan. Come up with more than one alternative, if possible, and
even include a few innovative ideas to make the resolution better. Don’t have the
attitude of ‘my way or the highway.’ Be creative with options.

W - WORK
A small disagreement may be over just as quickly as it started, but very often, conflict
has been brewing for a long time and will not be resolved with one conversation. You
must be committed to working out the option that was chosen.
You must also work on
your attitude. It’s quite easy to look with a jaded eye at someone with whom you have
disagreed. You may expect the same situation to repeat, or at the very least, you would
not be surprised if it did. This attitude is very detrimental to long term resolution. It
takes concentrated effort to rebuild a relationship. Prepare yourself for hard work.

Conflict is inevitable, but resolution is possible, and the result can be infinitely
rewarding. So SLOW yourself down, and do not let the collisions of life master you.

By having a plan to deal with conflict, you will be much less disappointed when life
throws you a curveball. Life is problematic and competitive, and this is not a bad thing.
This is not evil. It’s the way things ought to be, because honest competition makes us
better. Competition forces us to provide better products and better services at a faster
pace and a lower price. Pure competition is good, and conflict is the natural
consequence of competition.

With no opposition and no challenges, life would be dull indeed. Do not wish for an easy
life. You will never grow if you stay in your comfort zone. Embrace the contact and the
conflict. Know that through the struggle comes the satisfaction of winning.

Conflict and competition sharpen us. They refine us, and they keep us on our toes.
There is nothing wrong with competition, but there is everything wrong with animosity.
There is nothing wrong with conflict, but there is everything wrong with hurting other
people or damaging their reputations. You need to learn that competition is the name of
the game and that conflict is a way of life. Don’t let the fear of these things hold you
back. Take a moment, S.L.O.W. and resolve the issues.

Have the mindset to accept the competitive nature of life, and have a plan to deal with
inevitable friction. Keep your head up, and know that competition makes you better.

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