What Can Buffaloes Teach Us About Conflict?

Shawn Temple
What Can Buffaloes Teach Us About Conflict?

Unlike another blog post I wrote, this article is actually about buffaloes—the large…very large animal. Turns out many of us interchange the word buffalo with bison, and the latter is actually correct when we’re talking about the North American herd animal.

But no matter what you call them, I found this tidbit about the animal while scrolling through social media and I think it bears repeating.  Turns out, both buffaloes and cows sense when a storm begins to roll across the plains.


East and West


Most storms travel west to east, and cows move east to outrun the storm. Of course, they will never outrun it; it will eventually catch up to them. They are only delaying the inevitable difficulty and hardship.

On the other hand, buffaloes sense the storm in the west, and they begin to move west —directly into the storm. They know if they head straight toward the storm, they will encounter it faster and move beyond it faster.

Pretty smart, right?

As I thought of these herd animals, it was glaringly obvious that we do the same thing—usually we’re with the cows though.


Fleeing the Inevitable


When it comes to conflict, challenges, problems and obstacles, many of us naturally decide to move away from those negative situations. We may not try to outrun them (ok, maybe we do), but we prefer the option of delaying the misery as long as possible. We put it off, put it off and put it off again in the vain hope a miracle will happen and we won’t have to deal with conflict.

But conflict exists in every organization. Done correctly, it’s incredibly healthy and invaluable to success. But most people hate conflict and aren’t very good at it. So, like the cows, when we sense the storm is brewing…we head east.


Be the Buffalo


Challenge yourself to be the buffalo rather than the cow. You’re only delaying the inevitable. Usually, the conflict is not as bad as you perceived it to be. Face the clouds.

You’ll get there faster. You’ll get through it faster. You’ll get over it faster. And the anxiety and misery everyone feels will pass away like a summer rainstorm. The sun always follows.

Next time you sense conflict, find the clouds and turn west. Of course, it can be hard to find your way sometimes. That’s why there are compasses available to point you and your whole organization in the right direction.

Shawn Temple
Strategy Director