Has this ever gone through your head at the end of the day? “It’s been another difficult day at work. That other person in the office just really gets on my nerves.
Every time we have to work together, we clash. I don’t get them, and they definitely don’t get me. I just hope that we can get through this next project, or it could really impact my future.”
Is there someone around you at school, work, or even your neighborhood who, no matter what you do, seems to be your complete opposite? How are you supposed to handle that situation?
Blame them, of course. It couldn’t possibly be your problem, right? I mean, you are not going to change who you are, so they should just get over it!
That approach is pretty much guaranteed to backfire on you, leading only to further conflict. Instead, you might want to think of ways that you can turn that negative energy around, redirecting the focus of the conflict into a positive competitive spirit that benefits you both.
Here are some suggestions from the verses of the Quran that might help you get started.
Step 1: Define Your Differences
The first thing you have to do is to clearly understand where each of you stand. Realize who you are, what you believe, and how you plan to go about your life.
Also, come to terms with who they are, and that there are always going to be some irreconcilable differences between you.
In the Quran, this could be defined as a “You have your religion and I have mine” (109:6) moment as mentioned in the verse.
Defining where you and that those you clash with are different is the first step to overcoming those differences. As long as you are unsure as to why the problem exists, you can never hope to make it better.
Step 2: Empathize with the Similarities
O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble in the sight of God is the most righteous of you. Indeed, God is All-knowing and Acquainted (49:13).
This second step is to understand that, at the root of everything, we are all the same. Even the strongest of enemies have things in common, even if it is nothing more than basic humanity.
To draw from an example in American history, during the Cold War conflict between the US and the Soviet Union the American President John F. Kennedy said in a speech about his country’s greatest enemy:
“For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”
It was this attitude, despite decades of a deeply rooted ideological conflict, that saved two of the world’s major powers from the brink of nuclear war. If similarities can be found there, then you can find it in your own interpersonal conflicts.
Step 3: Stop the Negativity
When you deal with someone you don’t like, it’s easy to spread that negativity to others. Gossiping and talking about someone behind their back can actually make a problem worse, creating a tribe mentality that will drive down both sides, and even hurt your other positive relationships. The Quran tells us:
O you who have believed, avoid much negative assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin. And do not spy or backbite each other. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his brother when dead? You would detest it. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is Accepting of repentance and Merciful. (49:12)
Gossiping, backbiting, and thinking the worst of someone else is considered so disgusting that God equates it with eating their dead flesh.
Why would anyone want to engage in such a terrible activity? Stop the negativity as soon as possible and, more importantly, seek forgiveness from God for the bad things that you have said and done.
Step 4: Work Together and Compete Positively
The final step is probably the hardest: turning your conflict into positive cooperation.
And cooperate in righteousness and piety, but do not cooperate in sin and aggression. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is severe in penalty.
This verse tells us that working together for the greater good is the ultimate goal we should strive for in our relationships with others.
Think of something good that you can work on with your problematic coworker or neighbor. Fix the garden, come together to change that light in the stairwell that keeps going out, or combine your strengths to organize a lunch party for your colleagues.
When you engage with others in constructive, positive, cooperation, you will notice that the personal conflicts disappear quite quickly. Your relationship will grow through shared experience; and the disagreements of the past will seem minuscule and easy to handle in comparison.
In conclusion, getting through the bumps in interpersonal and professional relationships shouldn’t mean endless destructive conflict.
Use the guidance of the Quran to turn the situation around, and every person involved – even those not directly part of the disagreement – will benefit and think better of you in the process.