Can you live without conflict? Are conflicts something we just have to learn to live with, or is there something we can do about them?
These are some of the questions Dr. Mike Patterson addressed recently to more than 250 people who are part of Life Groups at Mariners Church.
“Life Groups are groups of people interested in walking through life together,” explained Jeff Pries, pastor of Life Groups. “They are usually about 8-12 people looking to connect around God’s Word, share life with each other and make a difference in the world. I was excited to have Mike share helpful information that he usually shares with businesses. I got to know Mike in my group; he is an awesome leader and it was great for people to learn helpful tools for dealing with conflict. Plus everybody had fun!”
Patterson is the coauthor of the book “Have a Nice Conflict: How to Find Success and Satisfaction in the Most Unlikely Places” and he is a partner at Personal Strengths Publishing in Carlsbad. He was a U.S. Army officer and spent 20 years in sales, marketing and training roles. He is a frequent keynote speaker, and a master facilitator who has worked with corporate clients and government agencies throughout US, Europe, and Latin America. He is an adjunct professor teaching in the doctoral program at Pepperdine University’s Graduate School of Education and Psychology and at Concordia University in Irvine.
“When I was growing up, I wanted super powers,” Patterson said. “But when it came to adult relationships, I wasn’t fighting for truth, justice and the American way; instead I fought to get my way and tried to manipulate people. When this didn’t work, I discovered I was ill-equipped to deal with the ensuing inevitable conflict. I learned I wasn’t alone; nearly everyone struggles with interpersonal conflict.”
Patterson said nothing damages good relationships like bad conflict, and he enjoys sharing practical ways to prevent and manage conflict, thereby improving relationships at home and at work. He defined conflict as an emotional reaction to a perceived threat to self-worth.
“Conflict is when it gets personal; it’s different than simple disagreements,” he said.
“Conflict happens because we see the world differently than others. You and I could go to the same meeting, but leave having a completely different take on what happened. We see from different perspectives and we see each other with different perceptions. We see ourselves in terms of our own motivations and intentions; we know why we do what we do. But others only see our behavior and they experience how it makes them feel. They don’t know our motivation.”
“Try to see others’ behavior through the lens of positive intent, it will change your perspective,” Dr. Patterson continued. “Say to yourself, ‘I wonder what they are trying to do.’ It’s a great starting point; most people don’t wake up in the morning intent on irritating you. They are doing what they think they need to do.”
According to Dr. Patterson, the personal and relational costs of conflict are incalculable. Stress, anxiety, sleepless nights, damaged relationships, estrangement from family and friends, domestic violence and divorce are all rooted in interpersonal conflict.
He referenced an extensive study that found that 85% of employees at all levels experience conflict at work, and an average employee spends 2.8 hours a week in conflict, incurring immense payroll costs. Conflict leads to absences and chronic, unresolved conflict is a factor in most employee turnover.
“It’s the little things we do everyday that affect our relationships, and sometimes we make poor choices,” he said. “Life without conflict is based on choice. Jesus was a master at this. He always made the right behavior choice when He interacted with people. Think about the people in your life, are you connecting with them at the point of their need, like Jesus did?”
“Choose to see people in your life as being placed there by God for a purpose,” he continued. “Of all the places to live in Orange County, why did God put my difficult neighbor in my life? I haven’t figured that out yet, but now I’m praying that Jesus would use me in some way to touch this guy, to show Christ’s love to him.”
“Make the choice to identify with your true source of self worth, see yourself from God’s perspective and recognize how much He values you; then you’ll have no reason to feel threatened or small. While I never got those super powers I saw on Saturday morning television, I found something even better – a connection with the true source of super power.”
For more information, visit haveaniceconflict.com. Cindy can be reached at [email protected]