Our world, filled with complex humans, has never been without strife and conflict.
Throughout history there have been cycles of catastrophe and chaos, and today’s world feels as volatile as ever. [Recommended reading – The Fourth Turning by William Strauss and Neil Howe]. With the world changing exponentially at whiplash-inducing speed around us, political divisions, economic instability, and worldwide crises like pandemics and wars, how do we get along and promote positive change, collaboration, and support?
The answer is to approach conflict with Moral Courage.
What is Moral courage?
Moral courage means standing up for what’s important and right in a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous (VUCA) world.
Moral courage is one of five pillars of courage we help instill in individuals and companies (the others being Psychological, Spiritual, Everyday and Physical, which are described here).
Five ways to access Moral courage
Here are five ways to access Moral courage to promote connection and collaboration in times of conflict.
1. Make sure you’re deeply connected to your Values.
Identify what your beliefs and standards of behavior are surrounding what is and is not acceptable for you for any conflict.
To do this, be still with yourself – really still, in quiet, for at least five minutes. Filter out the noise (literally and figuratively) of life. Tune into your heart and answer this question: What is your heart calling you to do?
When you’re connected deeply to your purpose and working towards it, it inspires those around you to a higher frequency of collaboration.
2. Intentionally move from being at the “EFFECT of” a situation to being at the “CAUSE of” it.
We can often feel at the mercy of the world around us, with no ability to affect change on big issues. But that’s not true.
In our decades of research and practice in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), we know that a fundamental to claiming your personal power and achieving a breakthrough in any conflicted situation is to ask yourself, How did I contribute to causing this conflict? And what can I do to cause a better outcome?
This is not to cast blame in any direction. Identifying how you personally have contributed to any crisis or conflict allows you to step into ownership of that crisis or conflict, thereby empowering you to create a different outcome.
For example, I was in a heated discussion recently with our internal team about a sensitive topic in which everyone had a difference of opinion. It could have gone two ways:
- We could have argued for two hours which would have led to everyone leaving the meeting feeling unresolved and upset for the rest of the day, hurting morale and productivity.
- We could all own our contribution to the climate of the argument and choose to cause a better outcome. This is what we did. Someone put their ego aside, another opened up to a different perspective and one reminded us that we’re all striving for the same goal. By the end of the meeting, we were a unified unit and came up with an even better idea then we started with. We shifted from being at the Effect of each other to Causing a better outcome.
3. Tap into your creative mind.
Disruption and chaos can be gifts that force us to come up with new, better ways of doing things.
As of the writing of this article, there’s currently a war in Ukraine. Most are not able to go to the front lines to physically offer support so they’re inventing creative ways to help. People around the world have started booking AirBnB homes they never plan to travel to in order to send aid.
That is creative Moral courage and just the beginning of what I can imagine in a series of creative solutions. The next time there’s a world conflict, we’ll have these creative ideas to leverage.
If you find yourself in a conflict, ask yourself this question:
What is the most creative thing I can think of or do that would resolve this?
4. Direct your energy towards your desired outcome.
Energy exists on a macro and micro level. Where you put your energy is what creates your future. In any room or situation, people will calibrate to the lowest common denominator. For example, if you’re at a party and there’s someone in a sour mood yelling at everyone, the entire party goes down to that lowest mood there.
If you find yourself in a conflicted situation where the energy is low around you, think about the outcome and collaboration you want and direct your energy towards creating it.
5. Take courageous action.
If you need to elevate connection and collaboration in a time of conflict, ask yourself,
What is the Moral courage needed here?
What am I putting into the world that will help achieve the state I want to create?
If your conflict is with one person, your Moral courage might be to not let yourself get bullied or bulldozed.
In a small group, it might be making sure everyone’s ideas and perspectives are heard, considered and shared, not just those of the most vocal person.
On a community level, you can keep directing conversation and energy towards the positive values and foundation on which that community was built.
The gift of conflict
As much as conflict can be a painful experience, it is also filled with gifts.
Conflict is a message that reminds us to reconnect with our morals, our values, our love, and to do what matters most – what’s right for each other.
Lean into your Moral courage during VUCA times. Stand up for what matters. We are here to help!
Deep gratitude to the Be Courageous team and clients for contributions to Moral courage and your dedication to leaving any environment better than you found it.