I know there are some people who always say what they feel, who tell people exactly what they think of them and never put up with shit from anyone.
But those aren’t the people I tend to work with.
The people I work with tend to be extremely caring and thoughtful, who are always aware of what others are feeling or thinking, and hate the idea of upsetting them or being rude.
They don’t want to tell a family member that her actions or words make them feel uncomfortable.
They don’t want to tell a friend that they are tired and would rather go home after an hour of hanging out.
They don’t want to tell a loved one that they aren’t hungry when they are over for dinner.
I’ll admit it: I’m one of those people, too.
In my family, for example, my brothers seem to have no problem being in conflict with my mom. I’m always amazed, and kind of jealous, how they will be having a mild disagreement about something random and suddenly blow up and speak sharply. And then, just a few minutes later, they talk it over and everyone feels totally fine.
I’ve never been that way. I’ve always hated conflict. But I’ve gradually learned how important it can be, so I wanted to write to you about it today.
First of all, let’s be clear: you don’t have to tell the truth all the time. Heck, there are tons of situations where it just isn’t appropriate to tell the truth, or when a white lie is a far better thing.
But, at the same time, sometimes you do have to tell the truth.
Sometimes the only way to move forward is to honor your own needs and desires, to ask for what you want or tell another person how she is affecting you.
And sometimes, telling that truth will cause a conflict.
So in those times:
Prepare yourself for that achy, swirling, frantic feeling inside your chest.
Prepare yourself for your stomach to feel queasy.
Prepare yourself to have a head spinning with thoughts – Should I have said that? Was that totally crazy and unreasonable?
Prepare yourself for the rumble.
We can’t live a life without at least some conflict. But we can learn to recognize our own aversion to it, and get better at sitting with those uncomfortable feelings when they are in the service of something greater.
So here is my advice for you: whenever you find yourself in that situation (either before or after you tell a truth that leads to conflict), try these two things:
1. Ask yourself: “Is a bit of conflict necessary to get me closer to my true needs and desires?”
Sometimes the only way to get something that you genuinely want or need is through coming into conflict with someone else. It’s just how it is. A friend, a loved one, a colleague may want something different from what you want, and that’s okay.
2. Say to yourself: “I’m in a situation where only one of us gets to be happy. And I get to choose who that is.”
I know that might sound harsh, but it can be powerful. Sometimes people don’t want us to do what we definitely want to do (go home, feel good about ourselves, take that job). And they’ve put us in a situation where not everyone will be happy.
If you’re a nice, sweet, caring person (and I bet you are!), you might be tempted to always let the other person be happy. And that’s fine. But just notice that. Why shouldn’t you be the one who gets her way, at least sometimes.
3. Remind yourself: “It’s okay to feel a little jumbled up inside when I clash with someone. Nothing about this is wrong or unusual.”
I know it sounds kind of cheesy, but honestly, I repeat that to myself all the time, when I am in conflict with someone I care about and it is making me feel a lot of feelings. To remind myself that conflict is a normal part of being alive, and just because I have a lot of feelings, it doesn’t mean that I did the wrong thing.
You can’t take away the conflict in your life, but you can remind yourself that it’s not at all unusual.
And then, of course, you can work to find a compromise.
I’d love to hear from you. Do you find you dread or avoid conflict with people you care about? How does it make you feel inside? What do you do to deal with conflict? Let me know in the comments, so I can tell you that you are not a crazy person.