I’m disillusioned with terms like “conflict management” and “conflict resolution,” though I continue to use them. I use them because I haven’t yet found an optimal replacement.
When I’m in conflict, I’m not particularly interested in managing it. From the midst of turbulence, “management” of conflict feels almost ridiculous, like trying to contain a cat that’s just fallen in a full bathtub.
I sometimes want to resolve it, but “resolution” has a sense about it, like a box wrapped in tissue paper and tied up with a pretty little bow, that conveys fully sorted out, nothing left amiss. In relationship conflict, that’s an elusive goal and I fear trying to reach it leaves a lot of people suffering. It is an insufficient word.
I would like to navigate the conflict better, yes. I’d like to engage it in a way that leaves me feeling good about the way I’m behaving, though I can say with absolute certainty that I will always aspire to this and with some frequency miss the mark. Neither navigation nor engagement speaks to me; neither echoes what I want in my soul.
What I really want when I’m in conflict with my beloved husband, is to be free from it. I want that for both of us. Not freedom as in avoidance, but freedom as in done well and right and moving on. What I really want when I’m in conflict with a fellow board member or a colleague is to finish it, not damage the relationship if I want or need it to continue, and not let it eat too much of my tomorrow.
I want my freedom and peace of mind. What do you want?