Conflict is inevitable.
It crops up when we least expect it and certainly when we least need it.
Then again, who would ever need conflict?
Well, A STORY does.
Conflict is an essential story element. Without it, there’s no inciting incident or catalyst for action. There are no stakes or drama or plot points to move the story along.
Take any screenwriting class and you’ll see that conflict is what sets the story in motion.
But in our own lives, who likes conflict?
We avoid conflict at all costs. We stifle our feelings or shy away from conversations that need to be had. We hold back on actions that take us outside of our comfort zone to unfamiliar experiences or places.
By doing so, we actually create more conflict in our lives, not less.
In many ways, we stay in that swirl of conflict, rehashing and reliving the same issue over and over again, feeling like, “Didn’t I deal with this last week? Didn’t I feel like this last year?”
Avoiding conflict keeps us at the start of the story. The only way to move forward and push that story along is to work through the conflict.
Because I’m a big believer in the power of words, I think it’s the word itself – “conflict” – that has us so conflicted.
Conflict is a serious disagreement, a quarrel, a squabble. Or it’s a clash between people. It’s hard to see conflict as a potentially positive force given that definition.
What if we changed the word conflict, to something that would have a similar meaning in a story sense? Let’s keep the first letter the same and find one that starts with a “C.”
How about… “challenge”?
Anyone up for a challenge?
I know many people who would take on a challenge with aplomb, but if asked, “anyone up for conflict?” would quickly decline.
A challenge is something we engage in to develop or show off our skill. We bring a certain experience and confidence to the scene.
In storytelling, a challenge is just as effective as an inciting incident or catalyst for change. The hero of the story takes on a challenge (to leave his hometown and explore the world, to fight the evil forces, to grow and expand his horizons. Thus begins the hero’s journey.
A simple change of wording can help us rethink the conflicts in our lives and whether we’re up to the challenge of facing them.
Wording aside, it’s time to do more than talk. Action is the antidote to anxiety. Plot points power the story along.
If you want to take on a challenge, or get past the conflict, you have to take the actions necessary to create a change from the “before” (state of conflict) to the “after” (as in, “happily ever after”).
The only way to move the story forward is to move… forward.
So stop hanging back, waiting for things to change.
You’re up for the challenge! What have you got to lose except for the conflict you’d love to get rid of?
It’s Your Story… What Happens Next?
Valerie Gordon is a former Emmy-winning television producer, a lifelong storyteller, and the founder of career and communications firm The Storytelling Strategist. She works with corporations and speaks at conferences, helping clients and audiences discover the power of story to define their brand, perfect the presentation, seal the deal, and ascend the leadership ladder. Book a free discovery call to learn how strategic storytelling can benefit your team or organization.