169. I’m so conflicted about conflict

169. I’m so conflicted about conflict

Someone told me the other day that they wanted me to write a blog on conflict.

I told them I didn’t care what they want.

They told me they thought a lot of people would be interested in reading it.

I told them I hadn’t asked for their stupid opinion.

They told me there was no need for me to talk to them like that.

I told them if they didn’t like it they could KMA.

They told me with an attitude like that they didn’t wish to be my friend.

I told them that if I had to choose between them and a doorknob, I would choose the doorknob.

They told me that my dog’s constant barking was bothering them.

I told him to go and tell their sad and pathetic story to someone who cares.

Recently, while sitting in a restaurant recently having coffee with a friend, I became aware of voices on the other side of the room rising louder and louder. A moment later I noticed a man stand and storm out of the restaurant while loudly muttering that are “this is the worst &%$@ing restaurant in the world and I’m going to tell everyone about it.”

Two things struck me about what I just observed. The first was his exclamation that “this is the worst restaurant and world”.

How could he possibly know that?

The second was the enormity of the task he had undertaken. Remember, he was going to “tell everyone about it.”

My understanding is that there are more than 7,000,000,000 people in this planet so getting that message out to “everyone” will take quite a bit of effort on his part.

I am, of course, being silly in my feeble attempt at humor but that incident reminded me of how quickly conflict can creep into our lives.

In my professional life I have conducted many employee focus groups in different organizations and have frequently asked folks to describe their “worst nightmare of a boss.”

It seems each time this question is posed the answer follows a predictable pathway. The initial response to the question invariably focusses on the yelling, screaming, ranting, tyrannical bully who manages through fear and little else.

Very quickly though, the focus shifts away from this type of person and, after discussing other “management types” frequently arrives at a different conclusion.

Almost always the winner of the coveted “worst nightmare of a boss” award goes to the manager who will not make a decision about anything and who is so conflict-averse that he/she will not get involved in anything that has even a hint of conflict attached to it.

That level of conflict aversion is not the exclusive domain of some of the occupiers of the corner offices.

Sadly, many people live in an arena filled with skillfully disguised anger and frustration rather than attempting to address the very people whose conduct may be causing that anger and frustration.

There is a profound difference between conflict aversion and not enjoying conflict. I think it is safe to say that few of us seek out and enjoy conflict. We would rather it not be present at all.

Conflict, be it between coworkers, neighbors, businesses and customers, political differences or anything else, seems to present itself in all of our lives at some point. Choosing to do nothing about it while it continues to bring discomfort into our lives is a choice many of us make, albeit one that does nothing to address either the conflict itself or the anger and frustration that follows in its wake.

When conflict does present itself we are always faced with three choices, and only three choices, if we wish to have any hope of resolution. None of these three will guarantee a satisfactory conclusion and yet they remain the only three choices we have.

The first choice is to “accept the way it is.” This means that we choose to do nothing to resolve the issue because we can live with it the way it is without it causing us the continual anger and frustration we discussed earlier.

Our second choice is to “escalate the situation.” This means that we attempt to seek resolution directly with the other parties involved or through other means such as external mediation.

Our third choice is to “exit the relationship.” This involves removing ourselves entirely and completely from the situation itself. This is often but not always, the most extreme of all options all – changing jobs, moving etc.

There is a fourth choice. This is an unofficial choice, a poor choice, a damaging choice and one that, unfortunately, for far too many people, is their first and only choice.

This is known as the “whine like hell” method.

It works like this; rather than addressing the person or people with whom we are in conflict, we discuss this situation with anyone and everyone else who will listen to us.

And then we do this again and again and again in the perverse hope that somehow this will make the whole thing go away.

If you are one of those many people who have tried choice number four you’ve probably experienced its ineffectiveness. Make this commitment to yourself right now. Promise yourself that the next time you find yourself in a conflict situation you will seek to resolve it through choices one, two or three and that choice four is henceforth permanently removed as an option.

Of course, if your conflict happens to be with me, please go straight to choice number four rather than coming to me because, as I mentioned right at the beginning, “I just don’t care.”

Just kidding.

Till we read again.

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