Be a Winner of the Conflict Trifecta
Bill Cottringer

Conflict is the beginning of consciousness. ~M. Esther Harding.

There are three main types of conflicts—against life, between others, and within ourselves—which we all face in trying to get through life and live our own personal story The opposing sides to these three primary conflicts are: Us vs. life, us vs. others and us vs. ourselves. Our common story weaves through this conflict trifecta with our own way to manage closing the gap between where we are and where we want to be. This is the story we are all trying to tell.

Of course, these three conflicts were all invented by us having self-consciousness, which creates the compelling illusion of separation between ourselves and the rest of life. Regardless of their true nature, these three primary conflicts are very real obstacles in our journey that we have to resolve if we are going to get anywhere close to winning the trifecta.

Obviously, when we realize it is our very own sense of having a self separate from everything else that drives these three conflicts, we have already started to understand the best way to resolve them. Below is a brief description of these three conflicts with some useful tips to help getting through them in gaining more than you lose.

Us vs. Life

Viewing life as the enemy to compete against just perpetuates this conflict and robs us of the possible benefits of seeing life as an ally to cooperate with in our efforts to learn, grow and improve and to close the gap between where we are and where we want to be. And we often waste valuable time, money and efforts trying to control the uncontrollable aspects of life, missing all the opportunities to manage the controllables better for more happiness and success from gap closing.

Here are reliable ways to have more gains than losses from this conflict:

1. Since time is one of our most valuable resources and in anything, timing is everything, it is smart to learn to manage our time wisely instead of letting it manage us. This usually results in getting twice as much done in half the time.

2. Leaning towards being positive, hopeful, and optimistic is the best way to get the good outcomes that we expect from this choosing this perspective. This leads to more wealth, better relationships, more happiness, fewer physical symptoms, and a longer life. Who could argue with these benefits?

3. Fit in first and then find ways to make what we are fitting into better gradually from inside-out. That was you don’t waste time trying to change things that really don’t need changing or other things that require more effort than you have to give.

Us vs. Others

The main problem with this conflict is that we get annoyed when people express different beliefs, values, and perspectives than those we have, and become frustrated and even angry when we fail to persuade others to our thinking. Conflicts with others are usually emotionally based and sometimes not easy to get through civilly and rationally. And the stronger we feel we are right and they are wrong, the worse the quality of communication and relationships become.

Here are three best practices for resolving the conflicts we have with other people:

1. Find ways to cooperate with others with reasonable compromises and productive collaboration for win-win outcomes, rather than competing with the inevitable win-lose results. If we must compete, make it against ourselves.

2. Become a better listener to understand other people’s beliefs, values, and perspectives, especially when they are different from your own. And always listen to understand rather than just to respond with a clever retort.

3. Be as likeable as possible, especially in difficult interactions, by demonstrating honesty, agreement, humor, and empathy and practice likeable communication by conveying qualities like acceptance, equality, freedom, and tentativeness. These are all universally good virtues that won’t ever steer us wrong.

Us vs. Ourselves

Mostly because of our self-consciousness and divided minds we split things into this or that categories—like mind and body, thinking and feeling, head and heart, and a sense of having a good and bad self. The main way to get through this conflict is in building empathy to grasp our real connectedness and understanding how our dualistic polarities, including our terrible twins within, are both necessary so we can appreciate the better half when we have it.

Here are three other ways to reconcile this internal conflict:

1. Put all your energy into learning, growing, and improving into your best self—physically, intellectually, emotionally, vocationally and spiritually.

2. Use what is left over to manage your emotions and ego driving your bad self. And remember, we can’t really control what our minds think. But we can manage what our ears hear, mouths say, and hands do.

3. Manage your own terrible twins within, before you take on those of others. By the time we perfect self-management, there is usually no longer the interest in controlling or managing other people.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is retired Executive Vice President of Puget Sound Security in Bellevue, WA, but still teaches criminal justice classes and practices business success coaching and sport psychology. He is also on the Board of Directors of the Because Organization, an intervention program in human trafficking and involved with volunteer work in the veteran’s and horse therapy program at NWNHC Family Fund. Bill is author of several business and self-development books, including, Re-Braining for 2000 (MJR Publishing); The Prosperity Zone (Authorlink Press); You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too (Executive Excellence); The Bow-Wow Secrets (Wisdom Tree); Do What Matters Most and “P” Point Management (Atlantic Book Publishers); Reality Repair (Global Vision Press), Reality Repair Rx (Publish America); Critical Thinking (Authorsden); Thoughts on Happiness, Pearls of Wisdom: A Dog’s Tale (Covenant Books, Inc.). Coming soon: A Cliché a day will keep the Vet Away and Christian Psychology for Everyday Use (Covenant Books, Inc.). Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (206)-914-1863 or