Conflict Is Good For You
On not being afraid of it, understanding it, finding it, using it and growing with it.
A recurring question that often arises when we speak about conflict as an important element of Storytelling is: “Is it really necessary? Could we maybe avoid it this time? Isn’t it too risky in terms of image or branding?” After all, who wants to go through conflict? Such questions are obviously legitimate-- conflict is a misunderstood, hence disliked concept. People seek to stay away from it, which is natural. Now, let’s give it some thought: what is it about this terrible thing we so fear and try to avoid, but get to experience all life long?
When you went to school for the very first time, leaving Mommy and Daddy behind, you felt torn: you were sad but also excited and curious at the same time. That’s conflict! And it made you grow indeed! Think back to any first time and it probably applies. When we experience a new situation, a new challenge, when we get outside of our comfort zones, that’s when we experience conflict. Same when we live through a painful loss: it hurts while we grieve and it often makes us evolve, reinventing or rebuilding ourselves to become stronger. You know the expression: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” And when it comes to love… if there’s one thing that has generated the most beautiful and the most frequent of all conflicts, it is the experience of loving. Anyone has experienced this… and can feel this.
In truth, humans seem to define themselves through conflict.
From the early days of humanity when we evolved to learn and stand up, giving up the familiar position of running on four feet to literally “stand up.” We were not the fastest, we were unable to fly nor dive underwater, we couldn’t even jump, yet we had to learn to overcome it all. From the first shock of experiencing breath when being born to our very last, we learn the most when we go or get pushed outside our comfort zone. We lean in as we handle this tension between fear and curiosity, hesitation and hunger for more, between comfort and new experiences.
So yes, let’s dare to experience conflict. It is a universal concept, driven by the engaging empathy and powerful connection it generates, allowing us to identify ourselves with the characters, celebrities, brands, products that we follow and sometimes stand up for. This is also how one strongly and durably engages an audience, allowing viewers to actively participate while they are given a proxy to live a shared experience. So much more than a simple ad that passively unwinds in front of us!
Conflict can take on any shape, show up anywhere, sneak up on us in a subtle way: a slight faintness, a moment of humor or severity, a look, a smile … Conflict is not to be confused with fighting: think of two boxers in a ring-- that’s the job they get paid for. Conflict is so much more than that: imagine one of the two boxers is struggling in his personal life and this is his last and only chance… now you have Rocky Balboa and a deeply emotional and engaging story.
Conflict is exciting and an important part of Life.