Photo credit to Kuhnmi

Healthy Conflict: an invitation to learn how to fight well.

I’ve launched a new, six-week online course exploring the skills for working in healthy conflict. The next cohort starts on the 6th of July— get a place here

It seems like my whole life I’ve been working with conflict but I’ve only recently realised how much time and energy I put into making it go away.

As a young boy feeling unsafe watching my parents argue I’d play peacemaker, fearful that conflict meant they didn’t love each other.

As a young man living in a town where I’d regularly get mugged or face abuse I learned martial arts, thinking that I could deal with any conflict by violence and force.

As an adult trying to lead a business with a culture of mistrust I pretty much forced the entire company to learn communication skills, hoping this would mean they’d instantly find understanding and connection.

These experiences and many like them shaped my relationship with conflict and even more than that — influenced big choices I’ve made around life and work.

Today, as a 38 year-old man, when I experience conflict I can feel all of these parts of me striving for control — wanting to make the conflict go away or beat the other down.

These fears and insecurities seem to be widely shared — there are very few people I know who could say they enjoy or are good at conflict.

And the world we live in, where our experience is shaped by algorithms and filter bubbles that confirm our biases and keep us away from difference, is making things worse.

Rather than being more connected and experiencing more diverse views, we’re shielded from opposing viewpoints, so that when we do come into contact with them we’re more upset and outraged than ever before.

Conflict is learning

Having an argument, a fight, a disagreement — these are a natural part of being alive.

We cannot live and work together, expressing ourselves honestly, without falling out.

And the more we want to try new things, take bigger risks or recruit people to help us with our world-changing projects, the more likely we are to experience it.

But only by learning to work with conflict do we get to learn from it.

It’s in conflict that we’re confronted with the most surprising and diverse viewpoints.

It’s in conflict that we get to see the rawest, most vulnerable parts of the people we live and work with.

It’s in conflict that we get to see our own blindspots, unhealed wounds and unchallenged biases.

So every time we avoid conflict by shutting down or soothing we bypass our greatest opportunities to learn.

As my present martial arts teacher says: “There is no fight, only an education.”

These days, my practice is to learn to just be in it — to accept it, stay present to what’s happening and see what we can learn, together.

And I’d like to share this.

The invitation

I‘m inviting 10 people to join a 6-week exploration of how to work with conflict.

We’ll meet online for two hours each week to explore a new aspect of understanding conflict and ourselves in it.

We’ll share experiences, questions and uncover what each of us needs to do next to further our own development.

Between sessions we’ll keep in touch via a closed Facebook group and I’ll be available to answer questions by email.

By the end of the course you’ll have a new toolkit, a new understanding, you’ll have tried out some new and scary things and you’ll have a group of friends you can keep in contact with for help and support.

It will cost £200 for the course.

What members of past cohorts have said about the course:

“Full of valuable content, enriching conversations and powerful moments of sharing.”

“This course was so awesome I want to go again. If you’re even a little bit tempted then go for it. Future you thanks you.”

“I can’t stress how much it helped me to modulate my responses, identify trigger points and manage myself when I find myself slipping into unhelpful behaviours.”

“I now have a much more nuanced and mindful approach to conflict, a deeper awareness of my own blindspots when it comes to how I handle conflict and a whole host of new tools to use when I find myself in conflict.”

“I now have courage — belief that there is no need to avoid conflict, only approach it in the right way. Like if you walk behind a horse it will kick you, but if you approach with care and consideration you can ride off into the sunset.”

Why do this, with me?

I’m not offering this because I have solved my issues with conflict and have all the answers.

I’m offering this because conflict and my relationship with it is a live, ongoing and tricky enquiry that’s central to my life. And that I know we each have our own unique relationships with conflict to unpick.

We’ve quit secure jobs, we’ve relocated from one side of the country to the other, from a city packed with friends to a hamlet where we knew almost no-one. We’ve lost parents, had babies and generally pissed each other off.

I have two young children who I make cry on a daily basis (and who make me cry, only slightly less frequently).

I also work with large organisations often populated by stressed people. I come along, introduce some seemingly outlandish ideas and suggest they increase their workload for no extra pay or reward. As you can imagine, I regularly find that I’ve clumsily pushed a bunch of buttons.

And every time this happens I have to find my feet again, listen carefully to what’s going on and not rush to resolve it.

I also should add that I’ve been teaching and coaching people in Nonviolent Communication since 2013, had to lead the team in a failing business through mass redundancy, worked as a doorman in pubs and nightclubs in West Yorkshire and been practicing martial arts for over 20 years.

I’d love to share all this, with you.

If you’d love to learn, you can choose an upcoming cohort here

Or if you’d like to know a bit more about the practicalities, read on.

The practicalities

The dates for the next course are listed on the September and November cohort pages.

Each session is 2 hours, from 10.00am–12.00pm.

A place on the course is £200.

Among a whole range of things we’ll cover:

  • The roots of conflict and our relationship with it
  • The role of blame and judgement in unhealthy conflict
  • How to stay present and keep learning in difficult relationships
  • Tools for clear communication and seeing clearly
  • How to manage yourself in high-stress situations

We’ll explore a new concept, share our own experiences, ask questions and commit to trying things out.

You’ll be able to ask and offer help to each other during a closed Facebook group and I’ll be on hand to answer questions over email.

There are 8 places available — book one here