Prometheus, Zeus, and fire.
A case where conflict management went wrong.
In Greek mythology, the Titan Prometheus had a reputation of being something of a clever trickster and he was famous for giving the human race the gift of fire and the skill of metalwork. For this action he was punished by Zeus, with nothing less than everlasting torture and a half-eaten liver. This is a great paradigm of a conflict that didn’t go very well, right?
According to the Cambridge dictionary, conflict can be defined as an active disagreement between people with opposing opinions or principles. In more serious cases, it can lead to fighting between two or more groups of people, countries…or even Gods and Titans!
Prometheus and Zeus could have handled the matter differently so that everyone had their liver intact, don’t you think?
Conflict is linked to a variety of emotions, the majority of which are negative. There are various ways in which conflict can be handled. These include accommodation, compromise, avoidance, competition, and collaboration.
Most researchers distinguish between two types of conflict:
- Task-related conflicts arise when members of a group disagree about options related to the group’s task.
Prometheus and Zeus disagreed on the human evolution and improvement of living conditions. Did humans need fire after all?
2. Relationship conflicts arise from interpersonal conflicts unrelated to the group’s function.
Between you and me, it could also be a matter of interpersonal conflict. Zeus did not trust Prometheus — as we can definitely understand from his cruel punishment.
But… should conflict be avoided at any cost?
The most innovative ideas often are created out of conflict. Not to mention that the more we expose ourselves to conflict the better we become at handling it. If Prometheus and Zeus sat down at a god-made table and discussed calmly and with reasoning why humans should or should not have the gift of fire and the skill of metalwork, who knows, maybe they could have come up with an even cooler idea for the human race. So if they had indeed sat down at that table, they could have benefitted in one or more of the following ways:
- Opens our eyes to new ideas.
- Offers the opportunity to verbalise needs.
- Teaches flexibility.
- Teaches us to listen.
- Teaches us patterns of behavior.
- Leads to solutions.
- Puts communication skills in practice.
- Helps us to set limits.
- Allows us to differentiate ourselves.
- Practices emotional control.
Everything in life should be in moderation and the same goes for conflicts; avoiding them completely is not a solution, nor is pursuing them diligently. Because, although in some cases conflicts prove to be beneficial for our lives, other times they lead to disasters!
What makes the difference and where is the balance? In the skill of managing — and not necessarily resolving — conflicts. So yes: even the gods of Ancient Greece seem to need, in certain cases, a good dose of soft skills!