“From discourse, find harmony.

In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity.”

— Albert Einstein

  • Have you lived your life without any conflict?

My hats off to you if you have never experienced any conflict :-)

  • Have you found a totally unexpected gift after the conflict was resolved or in an attempt to resolve the conflict?

What did you do to discover such a gift?

Return On Investment

I want to make a case that there is a hidden gift in any conflict and there are three things we can do to increase the chances of finding the gift.

Let me share one example from my life to show how this may occur. At one time, I worked in state prison system in a small town.

I love swimming and after some searching I found a swimming pool in a bigger town about half hour away. So twice a week I drove there to swim.

One time, as part of my routine, I was swimming butterfly and I felt a tap on my leg. I stopped and I heard this lady yelled at me, “Hey you can’t swim butterfly here, it is against swimming etiquette.” I was little taken aback, I thought, if I can’t swim butterfly in a pool, where else can I swim?

Well, I was almost done so rather than arguing at that time, I changed my stroke and completed my workout. This didn’t end there; next week she again stopped me so I decided to do something about it.

Next time, I asked people around if anybody else had a problem and nobody did. Somebody advised me to just swim, saying, “that lady always complains, don’t worry.”

So I started doing my normal routine. Sure enough when I was swimming butterfly, I got stopped again by the same lady. This time I told her, “Look lady, nobody else has any problem; and I don’t know what your problem is.” I then continued to swim butterfly.

After completing my swim when I got out of the pool, I heard the lady yell, F___ Y__. I felt a shock, I didn’t expect that kind of language from this lady.

I didn’t respond or even look back even though I was fuming. I went into the shower and stared reflecting on what had happened. I figured we both came to the pool to reduce stress; so I must resolve this situation to find peace.

So I went back to the pool where the lady was doing walking exercise and asked if I can talk to her to resolve the issue. At first she was resistant and said, “I don’t want to stop.”

I persisted, “please this won’t take much time and we can talk while you are walking.” She agreed and I got into the pool and started walking with her.

I began by saying, “Look, there is enough fighting in this world and I am sure we can come up with some solution.” I continued, “I come only two days a week so I can work around your schedule. So what days do you come?”

I was amazed at her reaction; she said, “You mean you swim only two days, you should swim more often.” I stood there for a few seconds with my mouth open and eyes wide. Then before I could say anything else, she said, “Don’t worry, it won’t happen again.”

That was the end of our conversation. We introduced each other and I thanked her and walked away. I didn’t see her in the pool after that day.

After several weeks, I was late in getting out of the gym and I met her coming into the building. She asked me, “Shabbir, how come you are so late?” I explained, “I work in Soledad Prison and sometimes I get delayed.”

She exclaimed, “You mean you work in Soledad and come all the way here to Salinas? Why there is a wonderful Olympic size pool in Soledad.” I tried to argue, “But I have searched on the internet and couldn’t find any.”

She said, “I am a real estate agent and I know there is an Olympic size pool there.” She gave me the location and sure enough I found a great pool 5mins from the room I rented. Not only that but I discovered a year later that the pool I used to go in Salinas had shut down.

Just before this incident, I had read, “Unlikely Teachers: Finding hidden gifts in daily conflicts” by Judi Ringer. Judy is an Akido Grand Master and she says every opponent on the mat has something for us to teach. She continues, “You are practicing Akido whenever you listen with curiosity to an opposing view or search for mutual understanding, respect, and purpose.

I learned my lesson experientially.

So what did I do that created this new gift?

First of all, rather than reacting out of anger I calmed down; I didn’t even turn around when I heard her curse. Next, I courageously took a positive action—I went back and initiated a conversation. Finally, I offered to reschedule without any expecting any benefits.

So we can find gifts from any conflicts, if we follow this three steps:

  1. Calm down
  2. Take action and
  3. Offer without expecting any benefits.