Some Conflicts Only Exist in Our Minds

by Bob Rausch, Ph.D.  

“The mind is its own place and in itself can make a heaven of hell and a hell of heaven.”     ~ Milton, A Paradise Lost

SOME CONFLICTS ONLY EXIST IN OUR MINDSWe waste a lot of energy thinking and rethinking situations in our minds. I’m sure you remember times when you’ve taken a perfectly good problem and run it over in your mind until you ended up with a serious conflict. We become our own worst enemy when we use too much energy thinking about a problem over and over again. My father gave me a great example of this. When he was a young boy, there was a bully in his neighborhood. This kid was bigger than the other children and took advantage of his size by pushing the other kids around. Although he never touched my father, he was a threat in my father’s mind.

So my dad began lifting weights and taking boxing lessons. Then one day he saw the bully sitting on the porch outside of his house and while not saying a word and mustering up all his courage, my dad walked up and hit the kid right in the mouth. That may seem strange but it’s a great example of creating conflict out of a problem, and it all took place inside my father’s head. We waste a lot of energy by over processing a problem and creating a conflict that only exists in our mind.

Here are some pointers to help you keep things in perspective when problems arise with others:

  1. Every person has a right to his own opinion. People base opinions on their perception of the world, people and events. When communicating with others, stick to the facts as you understand them.
  2. If you don’t fully understand, always ask questions for clarification.
  3. Restate. For further clarification, in your own words, restate what you believe the person is saying.
  4. Don’t beat a problem to death! When you believe you both understand the problem, ask this question, “How do we solve this?”
  5. Never ask for or seek a solution without first defining the problem.
  6. Back up when necessary. If you believe the conversation is moving into a conversation about who is right or wrong, stop and ask, “How about if we go back and define what the real problem is?”

Working towards a solution is always less stressful than creating a conflict that drains energy and wastes the time of everyone involved.

If you found these tips from Bob Rausch, Ph.D. of value and are a PMP looking to earn PMI PDUs, you might be interested in his self-paced, downloadable courses at


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