Some people can face conflict head on like a bull chasing a red flag.
However, if you’re anything like me… you’ll avoid it like a cow avoiding a branding.
Aside from all the cow references, I’ve heard a lot of friends mention that this is something we often gloss over in society. It’s a shame because it’s so important and so pressing in our every day life.
So, how does one deal with conflict without being too blunt or too much of a doormat?
For me, I tend to avoid conflict because… A. I’m more of a chicken than a cow (which likely stems from deeper things) and B. I never really learned tactics to deal with it.
After checking out psychologytoday.com (like the psychology nerd that I am), here’s a few tidbits I gathered for people like me who don’t have a lot of tactics for handling conflicts (and a refresher for the pros):
1. Express your opinion with an “AND” not a “BUT”. Often times there is no concrete “right or wrong” and when that’s the case, an “and” will suffice. Additionally, you may want to start with a reframe to make sure they feel heard. For instance, “I hear that you would like to workout at 4 AM to fit every thing in AND I also worry you may not be getting enough sleep. What can we do to resolve this?”
2. Another way to side-step tackling conflict too abruptly is to ask about the implications. For example, if you don’t agree with someone’s actions, helping them think through what may happen as a result is a good way to not only get their mind moving, but to also come from a place of concern (changing the whole head-on philosophy in and of itself). I.e. “What do you think may happen as a result of you getting only 4 hours of sleep every night?”
3. In addition to asking about the impact, understanding the underlying roots of an issue also helps–for both parties. “I understand that you’re trying to fit as much in your day as possible, what’s your goal in that?…”
Another important part of conflict–is the way we approach it not only in our words, but in our perspective…
1. See conflict as opportunity, not a problem. Part of those underlying reasons I run from conflict is because I was socialized to view it as this daunting thing. It’s not. It’s just an opportunity for us to look deeper at something and gain more understanding (use those critical thinking skills we all heard about in grade school).
2. Respect your “adversary”…or don’t see them in that light at all. Often, we make someone with a different opinion the enemy, when in reality the only thing that we disagree with is the conflict itself. It’s like the notion “You did something bad” vs. “You are a bad person”. Let’s not over do the conflict. See it for how it is vs. extending it into something bigger than it is.
3. Identify the REAL issue. Likely you’re not actually upset at someone because they sleep for only 4 hours. Underneath that it may be a sense of control, a sense of concern, or a fear. Identifying those underlying feelings for yourself may also put you in a better place to use tactic # 3 above.
4. Know when to walk away…keyword: walk. Yes, sometimes we do need to walk away. If the other party is relentlessly contentious or the moment has too much emotional heat (what some psych nerds call “emotional flooding”) sometimes it’s best to take a time out. And in some cases (if the conflict isn’t worth revisiting–another skill to develop) completely drop. 20 minutes usually does the trick, but make sure you give yourself/them the time and space they need to cool off.
In the end, we can’t avoid these things. In fact, good thing! Because without conflict, we’d be living in a world much like the famous book (now famous movie) “The Giver”. Conflict gives color, but it also gives an opportunity for growth, development, and understanding–insomuch as you do it responsibly.
Here’s to facing the rainbow, taking every opportunity to learn, and responsibly learning to disagree.
Until next time,