I’ve never considered myself to be a particularly confrontational person. I participated in debate in high school – I believe that this experience trained me in how to handle conflict in a controlled, supervised setting. This setting, although highly constructive, could not be farther from real life. I prefer to handle conflict through accommodation and compromise – listening to the other side, and sacrificing what I can in order to bring our dispute to a close. Recently, I’ve been grappling with the notion that I don’t always have to sacrifice when conflict arises. There exist ways for me to ensure that my beliefs, needs, and desires are met, while still keeping the peace. These ways fall under the umbrella of what I would like to call constructive competition.
Constructive competition. What an idea. This was an idea originally introduced to me by my speech and debate coach in tenth grade. As a student officer, I was tasked with helping build team programming and run practices. Our officer team was almost always in agreement, generally agreeing with any idea put forth by one of our members. Our coach called us out on that, asserting that we needed to speak up when we disagreed. Even if it ended in a yelling match, he argued that our conflicts would bring us more closely together as an officer team and result in better ideas and programs for our team as a whole.
I’ve shied away from competition in conflict settings because I’ve always put myself into the role of peacemaker. For a long time, I considered competition to be antithetical to peace. For a long time, I would have preferred to smooth ruffled feathers and make concessions on my end, because I knew that I would be able to roll with it. However, I’ve come to realize that sometimes, what I concede isn’t the right thing to give up. Sometimes, what I am advocating for is more important. Of course, importance is subjective, but there are situations when the lines between objectivity and subjectivity are blurred.
Being a peacemaker does not mean conceding whatever is needed. Being a peacemaker means seeing the lay of the land and recognizing what can and should be sacrificed and what must be protected at all costs. This means that I must be competitive in my handling of conflict – competitive in the sense that I vocalize my perceptions and ideas, to ensure that important matters do not get brushed under. My process of handling conflict is constantly evolving, and this singular short post cannot do justice to all possible methods employable. As always, I am open to dialogue and reconstructing my worldview, to become the best global citizen I can be.