In both career and personal relationships, how often do disagreements come up—problems of interpretation or perspective, of contracts or property—that cause significant setbacks? How often does the divide seem irreconcilable, the gulf not bridgeable?
Take a moment, though, to consider the broader perspective. Are your days filled with humility and gratitude, or does pride take center stage? Are you graced with intelligence and good health, with skills and resources? If so, is this or that issue really so important for you to fight over? Is it worth the stress hormones and loss of sleep?
The University of Southern California's Center for Excellence in Teaching echoes the widespread benefits of embracing conflict: "Defining and refuting opposing viewpoints makes it much easier for students to generate oral or written arguments. In fact, the issues that are the least contentious (e.g., "Poverty is bad") can be the most difficult to sustain in discussion. Issues appropriate to the university level are the ones with the most complexity, the most disagreement. Recognizing the validity and even the necessity of other viewpoints is central to the mission of a college education."
Make no mistake: When it comes to matters of education, of health, of the well-being of loved ones, of consequences of far-reaching import, fight for your integrity with all of the calories at your disposal.
Yet how often do the day-to-day conflicts rise to those levels? Are the few extra dollars or public prominence fought for really worth it? Is winning that argument truly worth sacrificing health and humility? How many disputes really matter? Does the satisfaction of winning the occasional contretemps do much more than cushion the ego?
Do take that moment. Consider the broader perspective. Then don’t be afraid to admit how relatively small, even miniature, that conflict. What separates us pales next to what brings us close. Think about it. That wide gulf may be little more than a drop in the ocean.