Conflict is necessary to build trust and connection in any relationship. In truly healthy and balanced relationships, conflicts are moved through together. The process of moving through conflict together by mutually learning and taking responsibility builds trust and deepens the connection. You often don’t know who your true friends are until you’ve gone through a conflict together. This is true in the many relational fields we’re in, including friendship, romantic relationships, work relationships, and any other kind of relationship.
We need conflict to find our shadow areas, or unearth what is hidden to each of us. By not shying away from conflict, we can use it to learn about ourselves, the other person, and our dynamic together. The importance of addressing conflict is true for individuals, as well as in groups. The strength of a relationship is only as deep as the trust in the bonds that connect us. That trust is only truly as strong as the conflict you can endure together and still stay in connection.
4 Stages of Group Development
I learned this model for the four stages of group development in a transformative learning environment. I believe this was derived from Tuckerman’s model, with a slight adjustment added by the presenters at Meridian University:
- Forming– the group comes together and gets to know each other.
- Norming– the group sets up norms and rules for how they work together.
- Storming– the group experiences conflict and starts to have issues.
- Transforming– the group uses these conflicts to reset norms and changes to adapt to the conflict and make it work for all involved (if participants are open to self-reflection).
In most groups the storming doesn’t always lead to transforming. It can lead to irreconcilable conflicts. When everyone holds the values of truth and love together, we most effectively move through conflicts into a place where we can all learn and grow.
The Fight for Who is Right
Conflicts break people apart when they are either simply avoiding dealing with it or fighting for who is right and wrong. When we approach a conflict through empathy by feeling into another’s perspective, we want to understand all sides of the conflict. It’s not about right or wrong, but instead about learning and growth. We honor the truth in everyone’s perspective and bring together differing perceptions to find a common understanding. When everyone is using empathy, this happens fairly easily. When one person in a couple or group stops using empathy, this process can break down quickly. If one person is unwilling to look at the truth of their experience or open to another person’s feelings, it’s very hard to find a true win-win outcome.
Empathy helps us reconcile differences and feel each other with an open heart. Through using empathy, we can understand each other’s positions and find common ground to move through conflict. To truly be empathic we must be free of the egoic defense of positional truth, “I am right here; you are wrong.” We seek the truth of the open heart. We don’t need to be right. We simply are open to what is here. True empathy is a guiding light through all kinds of conflict. When empathy rules, we can truly create a dynamic that works for everyone.
Empathy is what naturally happens when we are heart-centered. Through centering in the heart there’s an undefended way of living which naturally fosters connection, compassion, and love. For us to have a partnership, family, or work/community dynamic that truly works for everyone, we must value the heart-centered approach. Conflict becomes like an elixir for a more loving connection. In a heart-centered system, conflict becomes the straw that we spin into gold, as we find ourselves and love ourselves even more deeply.
A World that Works for Everyone
It’s through empathy that we create a world that works for everyone. By learning to set aside our egoic power struggles and focus on empathically understanding each other, we sow the seeds of a powerful change. Humanity is ready to do something radically different. War and cruelty have been the driving forces in human history. It is often a tale of conquest told by the victors.
The new story I’m hoping we get to tell one day is a love story. It’s a story of how humanity used conflict to wake up, grow, and learn. It’s a story of how humanity ended war, murder, rape, torture, and all forms of human cruelty. It’s a story of how humanity continues to use the challenges we face to open our hearts and learn to love all those in our field more and more fully.
If this story is one you want to write with us, join the revolution. Help us find a benefactor who is willing to contribute money to see this vision become a reality. We have the principles and frames needed to make a world that works for everyone. We need to build the infrastructure and alliances to make this vision a reality.
Join the Revolution
Adam Bulbulia is the author of three books on the topics of unconditional love, nurture being, and authenticity – all of which are available on Amazon. His upcoming book, Parenting from the Heart: A Guide to Create a Family Culture that Works for Everyone, is due out next year.
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To join Heart-Centered Revolutions and make a world that works for everyone, sign up for our mailing list. By far, the best way to join this revolution though is to practice opening your heart and truly coming from empathy and unconditional love for yourself and everyone around you.