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“When misunderstandings grow cut your ego.” Anonymous

I imagine psychiatrists and other related professionals would dispute the idea that we as humans can be ego-less under any circumstances, including when it comes to being in conflict with others. Well, they are probably right. However, I’m going to suggest we consider this a little before exploring the notion of being ego-less when it comes to our interpersonal disputes further.

What does ego mean? One of the many definitions is “your idea or opinion of yourself, especially your feeling of your own importance and ability” (Cambridge Dictionary). Often the sentiment behind saying someone has an ego is done in a derogatory way. However, I think it’s safe to say we all have an ego. After all it’s our sense of self that we bring to our way of being in the world and we have ideas we have developed over time about what that is. The idea of being ego-less, as in the title here and as it applies to engaging in conflict, implies that our ego can get in the way of being able to engage in conversations in which we try to assert our rightness for the sake of wanting and needing to be right.

This week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog considers whether we can be in conflict and leave our ego aside while engaging in conversations which challenge our identity, values and needs, or when contemplating how to handle a fractious situation that may end up doing so.

Among other things, this means approaching the other person and the conflict situation from a place of curiosity – a place in which we don’t need to be right, in which we care more about maintaining or improving the relationship as opposed to winning, in which we are fine with not proving ourselves or getting what we want, in which being better than (more knowing, more powerful, more anything) is not on the agenda.

To answer the questions in this blog I suggest you start by bringing to mind a dispute that isn’t mending.

  • What’s the dispute about?
  • What do you want to have happen? What do they want?
  • If you want things to reconcile in this situation and make amends with the other person what is getting in the way of that happening from what you can tell? What part are you playing in that?
  • What part is the other person playing that is keeping things from reconciling?
  • What might be important to that person that isn’t being satisfied and that could be contributing to the stale-mate?
  • What part are you playing that may be keeping things from reconciling?
  • What is important to you that might be contributing to the stale-mate?
  • In what ways may the other person’s ego be a part of the challenge you’re both facing in reconciling your differences?
  • What part of your ego is not serving you well in this dispute?
  • What if you left your ego out of the conflict what difference might that make?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?


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