Conflict is described
as a disagreement through which the parties involved perceive a threat to their needs, interests or concerns
. Within this simple definition there are several important understandings that emerge:
Conflict is often best understood by examining the consequences of various behaviors at moments in time. These behaviors are usefully categorized according to conflict styles. Each style is a way to meet one’s needs in a dispute but may impact other people in different ways.
There is a bit of a conflict going on here at Suncreek Garden. We have a patty pan squash that has decided it would rather grow among the tomatoes. At first glance there seems to be a confilict…but what kind of conflict do we have on our hands?
At first glance we have a conflict based on competition…the plants are competing for the same space, the same water, the same sunshine.
Competing is a style in which one’s own needs are advocated over the needs of others. It relies on an aggressive style of communication, low regard for future relationships, and the exercise of coercive power. Those using a competitive style tend to seek control over a discussion, in both substance and ground rules. They fear that loss of such control will result in solutions that fail to meet their needs. Competing tends to result in responses that increase the level of threat.
On second glance we have a conflict of collaboration. The squash and the tomato have the same needs…
Collaborating is the pooling of individual needs and goals toward a common goal. Often called “win-win problem-solving”. This collaboration requires assertive communication and cooperation in order to achieve a better solution than either individual could have achieved alone. It offers the chance for consensus, the integration of needs, and the potential to exceed the “budget of possibilities” that previously limited our views of the conflict. It brings new time, energy, and ideas to resolve the dispute meaningfully.
Sometimes conflicts create an opportunity for the parties involved to rise above the opposition and reach new heights and learn to appreciate one another and offer support.
Which is exactly what is happening in our garden. The squash plant has decided that it would prefer to grow above the tomato plants. The tomato plants are offering support for the squash’s new path. We are unsure of the outcome of this conflict between the two plants, but we are keeping a watchful eye on the situation.
Sometimes gardening imitates life…and this past week I have had my share of conflict. I have pondered my contribution to the conflict and I have decided I would rather be the supportive tomato instead of the aggressive squash.
“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”