What purpose does a conflict serve?
When we go into an conflict (such as an argument), it is generally with an outcome mindset. We want a resolution. Our mindset is either that of a power struggle (winning an argument / getting our way in the negotiation), or that of a compromise (getting a conflict resolved / negotiating a deal to a non-ideal conclusion).
This outcome based approach to conflicts makes us miss a couple of fundamental benefits of conflict. If we let go of the outcome/resolution based mindset for conflicts, they can be useful in achieving other goals.
A conflict is a good way to explain our own position, and understand where the other person stands. If both parties don’t take the conflict personally, it teaches them more about why and what the other party is thinking.
A conflict can also be a learning experience. If we know power struggle is not an option, and the only way for us to resolve the conflict is by convincing the other person, it makes us articulate our position in an objective manner with data. This helps us exercise our intellectual muscle, teaches us how to explain our positions, and also helps us critically examine what we believe.
The next time you engage in a conflict (like an argument) with someone, don’t just aim for a resolution. Don’t just think in terms of a power struggle or a compromise. Think of it only as a step in the right direction. Explain our position to the other party, understand their position. Our job is not to govern what the other person thinks or does. Our job is to take the first step. And pause for the time being if we don’t see it going in the right direction, and engage again later. An outcome is a bonus.