Conflict is everywhere. We see it on the news amongst countries. Living in the city, I see road rage every day. Yesterday, a man kicked another man’s car. That guy tore off leaving the kicker in a street-corner rant.
Conflict between friends, family or colleagues can have a big impact on our inner life. This is not to say that the guy who had his car kicked wasn’t hurt (he might have been) or the guy doing the kicking wasn’t hurt (he might have been). As a therapist, conflicts are top topic of discussion.
Conflict: Here’s what I have observed.
- Some people aren’t that bothered by conflict, giving it or taking it.
- Some people struggle with conflict. They things very personally. They feel hurt, offended and consumed by their feelings.
- Some people wear conflict like they wear a favorite sweater. The sweater fits them well. People know them by that sweater. They wear the sweater with satisfaction. My guess is, wearing the sweater is better than being stuck in the real feelings underneath.
Ways conflicts arise
Treating others disrespectfully. It is rare that people feel comfortable and okay while being condescended to, yelled at, ordered around, gossiped about or ignored.
I know a woman, Martha, who treats the waitstaff at restaurants like they are garbage. She snaps at them, she won’t make eye contact, she demands things, and you can see them understandably get upset. No big surprise that there is constant bickering going on between her and her step-children. She constantly complains, “Why all the drama?!” because she doesn’t understand that when you treat people like sh*&, it makes them mad. Martha doesn’t realize that her communication style is abrasive and unkind. If only she would realize it, Martha could change.
Manipulating. Whether it is a quiet colleague who goes behind your back to lie to your boss about you, or a loud colleague who takes credit at meetings for your work, there are those who will try to manipulate situations in their favor. This helps them feel more secure, maybe more powerful while they struggle inside with nagging insecurities and neuroticism. (One can only hope your boss has enough sense to see through these things.)
Manipulation in relationships is easy to find. Some parents need their kids to be at the “top” of everything so badly that they will have teachers, coaches or anyone else ousted to gain advantage. This usually doesn’t go unnoticed. Check out the Real Housewives series on Bravo to see this in action, over and over.
Lying, being deceitful. When you lie, you betray people. You hurt yourself. The truth always wants to come out. Remember John Edwards? The presidential candidate who was caught having an affair, and a baby, and financing it with campaign money?
Only expert sociopaths are capable of lying and not feeling guilt or remorse. Even if you fool the other person, chances are that there are inner conflicts occurring until you come clean.
Not respecting others’ boundaries. If someone says they can’t help you on a work project, and you keep pushing them, you are going to create conflict. When a woman says “no” on a date, know that no means no.
Not setting good boundaries. If you are a mom who does everything for everybody else and lets your own life fall by the wayside; you are creating conflict. You are building a mountain of resentment toward others that will eventually landslide down into a huge conflict. If you are being available, 24/7 at work and exhausting yourself, you are going to be short and snappy with your assistant, same with spouse, lover, kids, coworkers, colleagues. Conflict will arise somewhere.
Misunderstandings and assumptions. My friend Darla got upset the other day when I didn’t say good-bye at a party. She assumed that I didn’t like her. What she doesn’t know is that when I have something else to do, I say a quick, “Gotta’ go” and leave. All my old friends know this about me. Darla had a different reaction. She judged the situation and wrote a script that seemed to make sense—but it was simply untrue.
A lot of times, the initial conflict starts inside ourselves. It’s a by-product of boredom, insecurities, fear or pressure we can’t handle. We take what’s unsettling (the discomfort of uncertainty for example) and impulsively turn it into actions and words that either consciously or unconsciously create more conflict.
What to do when conflict arises?
In a world where good is always fighting evil, it’s impossible to avoid conflict. How we handle conflict is key. We can either engage with it (in right or wrong ways), or turn the other cheek. We can keep moving forward as if we didn’t even notice. There’s some shelter in this, don’t you think? I don’t know about you but I’d rather take the high road any day than throw punches.
There are times when turning the other cheek won’t work. Stay tuned next week for Strategies In Dealing With Conflict.
And, as always, take care.
Photo credit: San Diego Shooter