Millennials have gotten a reputation as a generation that fears conflict.
I disagree. Want to fight about it?
But honestly, is there really a person on this planet who would like nothing more than to sow the seeds of discord? (If you raised your hand for that one, consider this was a rhetorical question, and better things happen when people work together.)
As a Millennial, I believe it is not a fear of conflict, but an adaptive strategy that makes our generation move away from fighting.
Before I go any further, I’d like to differentiate between small/general conflicts and larger social conflicts. People of all backgrounds can get riled up and speak out on issues that are important to their world view. Millennials are just as susceptible to larger conflicts according to their perspectives, but I’d venture to say the avoidance/resolution trait is still present.
When it comes to solving conflicts, Millennials have been raised on television and helicopter parents instilling the idea of playing nicely together. Some parents might be shocked at how much their children listened as many Millennials approach conflicts with a goal of resolution rather than escalation. This does not mean that we lack emotions or are wimps; Generation Y has evolved to see that fights rarely lead to positive outcomes, for either side. By coming to the table and trying to address the different facets of an issue, it may be possible to convince another person of our point of view, or speak to our desired outcome in a way that strengthens the odds in our favor. There must be concessions on both sides, but learning to see the world from another person is a great step forward for this generation.
As scientists study the human mind and ponder how we developed our cognitive prowess, Millennials show strong aptitude within the Theory of Mind; this states that a person is aware that other individuals have their own mind, feelings, biases, etc. As children, we learn that our actions can affect other people and their emotional state. As adults, we understand that the perspective of each person is shaped by many factors and we must be mindful of these factors when attempting to find mutual solutions. In essence, we find that honoring the individuality of personal experience leads to a more positive and beneficial group experience when working on conflict resolution.
There will be more posts speaking on conflict in the larger social justice concerns, but here are a few helpful tips if you find yourself dealing with a conflict in your daily life.
1. Remember that both you and the person you are in conflict with are people and are susceptible to emotions, memory, and perceptions. While we may feel we are probably right, we should not let our sureness cloud the possibility that we lack information, have incorrect information, or have yet to see a different perspective. This will work to level the playing field for a fair discussion.
2. Remove expressive emotion from your statements and avoid the blame game. By stating facts and using “I statements” (I feel this, when this happens), you will move the conversation away from agitation and emotion and towards mutual understanding.
3. Allow for cooling off periods. Sometimes people need time to gather their thoughts in order to communicate effectively, and doing this allows a calm approach to any topic. It is acceptable to agree on a time to reconvene if a break is required.
4. Remember that no matter the desired outcome, you and the person/s you speak with probably want a solution without continual conflict. Things may take time to change even if an agreement is reached, but if you keep trying, you will meet your goal. Use the shared vision as a motivator and then try to find more common ground for the best results.
Millennials: Working together through conflict, effectively.