Do you hate conflict? Or does conflict feel “hateful” to you? Are you a master at avoiding conflict? Is this one of your major life skills? It is truly a remarkable art. You can literally sense where potential conflict may show up and then subtly, guide the conversation in another direction. Unfortunately, all that people will know about you is that you are a “very nice person”. Let’s change that a bit let’s go for “nicely honest”. There is a way to integrate this skill into your life letting people know you and where you stand more deeply. Let’s talk about how you can develop an openness and a clarity that will provide for all of your relationships.
Avoiding Conflict: Why We Do it
There are reasons why you may be “expert” in avoiding conflict. Was there a time in your life where “expressing an opinion” was not welcome? If you were raised in an angry, unpredictable environment you became extremely aware of signs of a potentially dangerous situation. Even now, an emotional center of your brain called the amygdala can recognize anger in facial expressions long before others. You are literally wired to notice anger even before others recognize that they are angry.
Another reason people can become conflict avoidant is the amount of neurological integration that is required to remain grounded during a conflict. If you have ADHD you may have found areas in your life where you do extremely well and other areas that leave you feeling angry, anxious or overwhelmed. Conflict usually falls in the later. It takes quite a bit of neurological integration to care about someone, disagree with them, keep in mind both your and their points of view while following the flow of the conversation. This “hard-wired” difficulty can lead to many kinds of conflict avoidance; being “nice”, allowing yourself to be less than honest or being chronically angry! When you are angry, the message is clear, “There is no conflict here, I am right!”
Take a New Approach to Resolving Conflict
Diane Musho Hamilton is an expert on conflict resolution and we discussed differing approaches people take in a conflict during our podcast together. In her book, “Everything is Workable: A Zen Approach to Conflict Resolution” she addresses her four levels of processing conflict:
- Ego centric – This is a chronically stressed, isolated point of view.
- Ethno centric – This is an “us vs. them” point of view.
- World Centric – This view embraces difference but is judgmental towards the first two.
- Cosmic Centric – This is a point of view that accepts yourself and others as they are.
Realizing and using these understandings can be very useful in any relationship. Often, the issues in dispute are fairly straight-forward. Discovering that a person sees the world and these issues from a different organizational view can provide new opportunities. Here are a few suggestions:
- As you notice that a conversation is getting heated, pause, take a deep breath and consider why this might be.
- Let them know the value you place on them and the relationship e.g. “I know how much you love the kids and you know how much I love you.”
- Have the person “state the facts” as they see them. Listen carefully, and repeat them back to them until they let you know that you have their point of view completely.
- Then, do the same thing this time with you telling them how you see things until they have it.
- Difficulties from this point are usually resolvable, unless they come from a different organizational viewpoint. The danger is that when this happens, the more flexibly oriented person may find themselves chronically giving in. Eventually, this may not work, ending the relationship. To maintain a healthy relationship both people will need to dedicate time to integrating their differing points of view.
This is a major underlying reason for many failed relationships. You may simply never get to the point where the real differences and opportunities for mutual growth lie. Working with these realizations can offer you a richer life of sustained inspiring relationships. When thoughtfully discussed, it can expand your perspectives for all of your relationships both now and in the future.
Learn more about deepening your relationships in our video course Growing in Oneness.
Join Dr. Seng each week as he opens the door to your future life, explaining how the Oneness Approach will help you grow in your relationship with your unconscious mind, in your perception of self, and in your relationships with others. You’ll develop genuine confidence, discover abilities you never knew you had, and learn the principles of meaningful, inspiring and lasting relationships.