Conflicts. Arguments. Frustrations. Even for all the toughies out there, fighting with companions is never fun. Interpersonal struggles, no matter how minor, are destructive and can eventually come to erode relationships. It happens in marriage, in the workplace, and between friends.
But what if you could learn a secret insight that would change your entire outlook? What if you could discover the reason why conflict arises, and never have to face it again?
How Conflict Arises
When people live, work, or interact in shared domains, there are natural unsaid expectations. Bosses, for example, expect their employees to perform highly. Employees, on the other hand, would like their bosses to be appreciative and understanding of their workloads.
However, people often lose sight. In the employer-employee relationship, a common scenario is the following: bosses, seeing that their workers are not performing well according to their expectations, become overbearing and demanding. In response, the employees become bitter and resentful. In an unhappy environment, results are less than satisfactory, and both sides are at a loss.
But according to the Arbinger Institute's bestseller Leadership and Self-Deception, there is a psychological factor at play here.
Are You Living In or Out of the Box?
Every person tends to live and operate within his or her own 'box'. When we are 'in the box', we look out for our own needs. On constant defense alert, we perceive outsiders as threats to our wellbeing and success. Unless someone is immediately fulfilling a need for us, we become the centers of our own existence, completely disregarding the fact that there are other human beings around us who also have valid emotions (and are just as important as we are).
Living in the box causes a person to become engaged in patterns of self-deception. A boss who acts irrationally might realize how he's acting, but it's too late. He's in defense mode. Instead of correcting his behaviors, he'll just perpetuate them.
According to Manhattan psychiatrist and bestselling author of Fulfilled, Dr. Anna Yusim, "Self-interested behavior often results from lack of empathy, an inability to put oneself into the shoes of another and truly understand what they are feeling. The results -- separation, alienation and frustration -- lead to mutual resentment, reduced job satisfaction, and decreased workplace productivity."
What is Self-Deception?
When we act in manners that are contrary to our values and beliefs, we feel terrible about ourselves."This feeling of mental discomfort when one's actions or behaviors do not align with his/her personal beliefs, ideals and values relates closely to Leon Festinger's renowned cognitive dissonance theory. Ideally, humans endeavor to achieve internal psychological consistency in order to function most comfortably in everyday life. The more our actions diverge from our true beliefs and values, the more significant tension and discomfort we will feel," says Nava Silton, Associate Professor of Psychology at Marymount Manhattan College.
The Solution is Simple...
When we act in sync with our personal moral compasses, we are happy human beings and the people around us feel comfortable as well. According to Dr. Yusim, "Authenticity is the state of acting in accordance with our core values and deeply held beliefs. It entails integrity, honesty (with self and others), and relinquishment of self-deception."
Take out a piece of paper and divide it into three sections: work, home, and social. In each section, write down your self-attributes and goals. You may include anything that describes how you would like to be perceived by the people you share these domains with. Here's a sample:
Work = I am responsible, hard-working, and meticulous.
Home = I am sensitive, patient, and loving.
Social = I am friendly, generous, and fun-loving.
Now, here comes the simple part: be yourself!
"Often a counter-intuitive notion, it takes much less energy to face our demons than to defend them. If we practice self-compassion rather than self-judgment, and accept and work with reality by letting go of what is supposed to be, we feel lighter and more generous with ourselves, and by default, with those around us," says licensed mental health counselor Ester Ben-Dov.
Don't be lazy. Be true to yourself. And remember to live 'out of the box' by being in tune to others' needs. Do you believe you are hardworking? Then work hard. Are you a devoted spouse? Treat the other with respect. Are you a thoughtful employer? Be generous with your compliments.
"This will allow you to not only avoid the uncomfortable tension caused by cognitive dissonance, but it will challenge you to highlight your favorable characteristics and to live by them. I have great faith in this challenge and believe it has great potential for enhanced psychological health, relationships and life satisfaction." says Silton.
**Liba Rimler contributed to this article.