By Jim Davis
How does a Lady Vol basketball player get to be good at making free throws? How does a musician get to be a virtuoso? Practice, practice, practice. Practicing the right way, of course.
When was the last time you heard anyone suggesting that you practice conflict? Probably never. Most likely, any suggestion you got concerning conflict was about how to avoid it. Not about how to make conflict a more effective tool.
Oddly enough, kids just naturally find ways to practice conflict when they “play fuss” about trivial things. And it’s often pretty effective. They generally work things out if adults will just let them. Kind of like puppies or kittens “pretend fighting.” When I was about eight, my best friend and I got into a “fight” one day over a Kleenex. A used one. He won. We still laugh about it.
The inventors of the first airplane, the Wright Brothers, learned the value of simulated conflict early on. They had found that there was a lot of information available about “heavier than air” flying machines, but nothing they tried worked. It was all wrong. They realized that they were facing a much bigger task than they had counted on, because they were going to have to start practically from scratch. They even had to invent new research methods. One was simulated conflict.
When they came upon a difficult problem they would each take opposite sides. They would each then argue their side until they had exhausted every possibility they could imagine. And they would really “get into it,” according to their housekeeper, who was often concerned that someone would hear them shouting at one another. But they solved some serious problems this way.
Simulated conflict can be a great way to find solutions to real problems. It can also help you to learn how to handle real conflicts. You can even use simulated problems if you don’t want to risk solving a real one. You might want to stay away from the Kleenex box, though.