I hate conflict.
I avoid unsparing honesty 90 per cent of the time because I fear it will result in a disapproving argument.
If I know what I have to say is going to cause conflict I typically don’t say it. I tuck the words away and pretend that they don’t exist. If I say anything at all it’s a watered down version of what I actually feel. It’s never the whole truth.
It’s hard to speak up when you know the potential of rejection is more likely than open reception.
There was a little bit of conflict in my life recently with a work situation that exploded into a dramatic debacle. Shockingly it involved a good looking guy who casually created trouble on a daily basis. Not purposefully of course but nonetheless real trouble.
A co-worker started to spread rumours; my suspicion is she was jealous of my friendship with the new man in the office.
I knew what she said about me, and I knew it wasn’t true. I knew that if I didn’t say something she wouldn’t stop. But I also knew that if I addressed the issue with her, we would end up arguing about it.
So I never confronted her. Like I said, I hate conflict. I have since changed jobs, but from what I hear, she continues to hold tyrannical control over the workplace.
I am officially tired of giving way to fear, of having it control what I say and do. And this situation has caused me to re-think how conflict — though it’s anything but easy — can actually be a good thing.
Here are some of ways in which I’ve discovered that conflict is not only beneficial, but just plain necessary.
1. Conflict keeps you honest
To avoid an argument with someone else, you may find yourself omitting parts of the truth or essentially lying to someone else. And frequently, the fear of conflict prevents you from even being honest with yourself. You can’t say it out loud when it matters, so you don’t want to torture yourself by admitting your feelings internally. Most people, even your friends, aren’t going to seek out your opinion. If you think what you have to say is important, then you have to be honest about it. No one is a mind reader; you have to use your voice.
2. Conflict allows you to go deep
Conflict requires you to be completely raw with your emotions and thoughts. That’s tough. But conflict is also a revealing experience that goes beneath the surface of what a friendship may appear to be. Once the dust settles after an argument, look around. If a friend has walked away from you simply because you disagree with one another, this may be for the better; genuine friendship shouldn’t hinge on agreement. But, if they stick by your side, making room for mutual forgiveness and understanding, your relationship will enter into a depth that it never could have achieved without the conflict.
3. Conflict helps to define your priorities
What you choose to fight for should be what you choose to be passionate about. No one wants to be in a state of constant bickering; so when you’re considering whether you should speak up, ask yourself: is this worth arguing over? Or is it for my own selfish need to be right? Reflect on what your values are, and what battles are worth the impending conflict. An occasional argument can actually help you prioritize your opinions.
4. Conflict makes you happier
When you keep things to yourself in hopes of avoiding an argument, you always feel worse. Not only do you feel like you’ve wronged yourself, you start to become even angrier toward the other person. Resentment rises, and you tend to blame the other person for your inability to voice your opinions. Your fear of conflict eventually transforms into a reality, creating a new reason to be bitter. But once you have conquered that fear, you can approach conflict confidently, saying everything you need to say in a respectful yet assertive way. You feel the weight of apprehension and silence lift away, until there’s nothing left but relief.
So, I’m trying to let conflict into my life sometimes. I’m trying to be honest with myself and others. And though it may be uncomfortable, I know my relationships will flourish, and my confidence will grow.
Don’t let the fear of disagreement control you anymore. I know I won’t.
Photo (FlickrCC) by Jörg Schreier.