Have you ever felt uncomfortable or embarrassed about being in conflict? If so, I hope by the end of this chapter, you will have new ways of thinking about conflict so you may answer either yes, or no, to the above question, without feeling bad about yourself.
Let me begin by saying that conflict is neither good nor bad, it is rather, a dawning awareness of human interpersonal dynamics such as injustices, mistreatment, inequities, or competition, towards ourselves or others. As we interpret these dynamics, through our unique perspectives, we experience a range of feelings and emotions, and we make certain assumptions about what is going on. These assumptions and perceptions sometimes bring with them uncomfortable and strong emotions.

The Nature of Conflict

Conflicts naturally result from human interactions. They stem from dissatisfaction, unease, competition, disagreement, or perception of scarce resources to meet one’s needs or interests. The unease or scarcity can be perceived or real.

The Brain and Conflict
The human brain is designed to continually assess life situations and identify resources that are most suited to our comfort and our preferences. We are programmed to want the things that will make us happy and those that will continue to ensure our survival and future comfort. Thus, our brain without conscious thought will evaluate our surroundings and environment in search of what will bring us the greatest value, the most opportunities, or biggest return on our investments. The brain will also help us assess what will give us more influence, power, status, or money.
Living a richer, more expressive, and meaningful life, even at the expense of another’s survival is within the capacity of humans. It is when conscience and societal norms send us disconfirming information that we adjust the fulfillment of our personal needs and interests to allow for others. Let’s examine the relationship between biology and conflicts.

The Biology of Conflict
An important aspect of human biology is what happens to our bodies when we are in conflict. The human brain is made up of the following three interconnected parts:
The reptilian brain, which houses the brain stem and cerebellum, and controls our vital functions such as heart rate, breathing, body temperature, and balance.
The limbic system makes up of the hippocampus, amygdala, and hypothalamus, and controls emotions, memories, behaviors, and value judgments.
The neocortex, home of the two brain hemispheres controls human language, imagination, abstract thought, and learning abilities.
These well developed and sophisticated brain system ensures our survival. The brain does most of its work at the subconscious level, seldom needing a conscious thought on our part to regulate breathing, heart rate, and the other automatic biological functions.

Physiological Responses to Conflict
When we are upset or in conflict, our brain supplies energy to parts of our bodies necessary for us to take flight and run, or to defend ourselves by fighting.
The reptilian brain and the limbic system, the first two parts of the brain that are responsible for the body functions, prepares us to defend ourselves or to run away from a perceived threat. Blood flow to the cerebral cortex is reduced since most of the blood goes from the brain to regulate our vital functions such as heart rate and breathing, as well as to strengthen our muscles.
The brain’s sole function in times of conflict is survival. In conflict, our senses are elevated; we also become more alert, and a high quantity of the hormone, adrenalin, is pumped into our bloodstream. The functions of abstract thought and rational thinking are also reduced. Incidentally, this is not the right time to engage in a negotiation.

Biology Versus Social Blunder
The brain’s main purpose is to secure our survival and safety, whatever we may interpret those to be. The brain will provide us with multiple ways to do whatever it takes to survive. It will provide adrenalin to fight or run when we are in danger, speed up our heart rate and awareness when we are afraid, propel us to search for water if we are thirsty, and food if we are hungry. Thus, if it comes to our survival, humans have the capacity to eat each other's corpses to stay alive. It could, therefore, be argued that due to the biological programming of our brain, conflict is inevitable.
We are naturally going to seek out the things that are in our best interest, requiring us to make a conscious effort to meet the needs and interests of those we live or work with. Conflict is inevitable because we are not always able to assess our best interests fairly and equitably against that of those around us. There are times when to prevent conflict, we will need to forego our needs and settle for meeting our mutual needs or the other person’s needs, which goes against what the brain is trained to do. Thus, to manage our relationships we need to retrain our brains to think of our interests instead of my interests.

Is it a Conflict or a Problem?

It’s important to be able to tell what’s happening and what to do about it when things get challenging in a relationship, at home, or at work. It’s important to have a quick way to assess if you are facing a conflict or a problem so that you can proceed wisely.
While a problem may be frustrating and can cause you to scream, the situation doesn’t allow for blaming others or inspire a desire to have retribution. When we face a problem like a leaky faucet, we look to see what is wrong, what broke, and what needs fixing. We look at ways to solve the problem, and our feelings and identity are not challenged. We don’t feel let down by the faucet, nor do we go into an identity crisis about our worth to the faucet and the meaning of the relationship with the faucet. We don’t have a desire to attack the faucet. We may be short-tempered or annoyed but we don’t demand that the faucet does something to resolve the situation.
When a conflict occurs such as a good friend cheating you out of an opportunity, you feel betrayed, your feelings and identity come into question, the entire relationship is scrutinized, weighed, and measured through new lenses. Things that were okay in the past now become proof that they lacked credibility. All actions and interactions are reviewed, and all past hurts become magnified. Questions about whether the friend respected or cared about you, or whether they meant you ill all along are considered. The differences in values are magnified along with your identity questions regarding the relationship with the friend. The value they may have placed on the relationship is also questioned. This situation has all the hallmarks of a conflict that can progress from just you and your former friend to your respective friends, who may feel torn to side with either of you.
Conflict and Social Expectations

In a world where we are not the strongest, fastest, or most agile, the ability to weigh the odds in our favor and to quickly decide on those most favorable to us is what has made the human species resilient. This very trait can damage relationships, erode trust, hurt those we love, and create interpersonal conflicts. To live well in groups, we must follow certain rules to prevent anarchy and not revert to the survival of the fittest. Thus, we’ve been socialized to think of others’ needs, to practice the law of reciprocity, to replace what we’ve used, and to respect other people’s property. Social norms and values teach us to share, think of the other person, consider other people’s feelings, and a host of other social and interpersonal requirements that is counter to our biology.
The social challenge is that though we are physiologically designed to act with our best interests in mind, it is also necessary for us to work, live, and play well together. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done, thus conflicts will happen, and we need to be prepared to understand, assess, and manage the strong emotions that accompany conflicts in our work and life.

Website:- https://interpersonalwellness.com

Author's Bio: 

Joyce Odidison, MA, PCC, CTDP is an author and speaker who helps leaders and employees stay resilient through difficult times. As a conflict analyst and corporate wellness trainer for 24 years, she uses her signature Wellness Improvement System® model (WIS) to provide fast, holistic, and sustainable results for her clients. She has a master’s degree in Conflict Management, is a Certified Training and Development Practitioner, former university and college instructor, and Thought Leader on adopting wellness competencies to build emotional and mental resilience. Joyce founded the Wellness Competency Mindset Teaching and Coach Certification which is an ICF Approved program that certifies facilitators and coaches globally. Joyce is President of Interpersonal Wellness Services Inc. a firm that provides workplace wellness and leadership coach training to the public and private sectors, as well as hosting the annual Global Workplace Wellness Summit. Joyce also uses her gifts to mentor and mastermind with budding entrepreneurs to grow their own wellness businesses using her tools and models around the globe.