February is Black History Month, a national recognition of the achievements and historical contributions made by Black people.Black folks have contributed to all facets of American life, including politics, the military, business, sports, art, music, movies, literature, and poetry (we’re looking at you, Amanda Gorman).

Yet the history of Black people in this country is a complicated one, marked by such atrocities as slavery, political disenfranchisement, systemic racism and discrimination, and – more recently – police brutality. We continue to fight for equity and inclusion for the Black community and for an end to the systemic racist norms that have plagued and hindered our nation for far too long. So even as we honor this month, we must also acknowledge the conflicted state of our union. Many view “conflict” as a negative term and seek to avoid it at all costs. But here at Athena, we recognize the benefits and positive outcomes that may emerge from conflict.

First, we need to recognize that a conflict is not merely a disagreement. Conflicts trigger very strong emotions and won’t simply go away if ignored. If not handled appropriately, a conflict can quickly escalate and result in an irreparable rift. But if handled correctly, a conflict can increase your understanding of others and even build trust and enhance the relationship you have with the other party in the conflict. When confronted with a conflict, try to remember that resolving it – not “winning” – is the ultimate goal. To that end, empathize with the other person. Be calm and respectful of their feelings. Seek understanding and move forward with a compromise. You may even consider using a bit of humor to manage the conflict, but be sure you’re laughing with the other person, and not at them.

If you feel yourself losing your cool, manage your stress quickly by using your senses or moving. You can squeeze a stress ball, take a walk, smell a relaxing scent, have a cup of tea, look at a calming image, or listen to a favorite song.

Let us honor the contributions of Black people to our country this month and every month, while also embracing the journey of understanding and truth that unites our collective humanity and contributions to this nation.

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