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Go ahead and argue, it’s natural

“Cooperation and conflict are inseparable components of any social group of animals.”

You might remember that pearl of wisdom when in business meetings or choosing a paint color for the living room with your spouse. Part of cooperation is conflict. It’s like the law of gravity.

And once you know it, you can relax a little bit about the inevitable friction in working with or even just interacting with the people around you.

wolf conflict

Photo: Carsten Tolkmit from Kiel, Germany, via Wikimedia Commons.

Knowledge of animal behavior has always helped me negotiate my way through life. There are obvious comparisons between other animals and us—birds with flashy plumage to attract mates or dogs who look for the tallest tree or rock to urinate on.

You’ve met both types in the human world many times. But the insight about conflict being essential to cooperation in social animals (lions, chimps, us, among others) has been revelatory for me.

The quote comes from Raghavendra Gadagkar’s “Survival Strategies: Cooperation and Conflict in Animal Societies, ” published by Harvard University Press. And the notion that we should expect some discord or resistance just from living life as a member of a social group makes horn blowing or raised voices seem no less annoying, but at least natural.

–Vicki Croke

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