Coping With Conflict


Conflict can’t possibly be avoided.  It appears to be everywhere, especially in my house. I even have family members who seem to enjoy creating conflict where there shouldn’t be any.   Everyone has different ways of dealing with it too, including within my family.  That’s what makes it challenging.  Of course, it would be nice if there was a lot less conflict to begin with because people were more tolerant, respectful, and cooperative and less stubborn, impatient, and selfish.  Unfortunately, I don’t see those things changing too quickly.  What would be REALLY nice is if there were better coping skills for dealing with the conflict because while we can’t control what other people do or say or what is happening around us, we can control how we react to it, at least some of the time.

I’m certainly not an expert on conflict resolution and don’t always deal with it well myself.  It is challenging sometimes to refrain from engaging or over-reacting.  I do like to talk things out and figure out how the conflict can be avoided the next time, but I often don’t wait until a more calm time to do that.  Even if I do though, it doesn’t matter.  There isn’t much interest on anyone else’s part in talking about things and figuring out what can be done differently, let alone actually doing something differently.

It’s hard to make improvements when one or more people prefer to avoid talking about anything that MIGHT lead to a conflict.  Just anticipating the conflict causes internal conflict, so imagine their reaction when conflict actually does occur.  They don’t want to listen or talk about anything.  They just shut down and sometimes even walk away.  You would think someone who doesn’t deal well with conflict would be willing to try figure out how to avoid it in the future or maybe figure out why there is so much anxiety about conflict, but not so.

And then there is my one child who will fight to the death and just keeps coming back at you with more and more things to say when the conflict should be over and done with, just to have the last word, and there are usually a lot of unnecessary put-downs in there as well.  There’s no willingness to prevent conflict down the road either, and the conflict often starts with her snapping at someone.  However, outside of the home is a completely different story.  She is hesitant to say things to people she knows will cause conflict or hurt feelings, and she thinks carefully about what she will say to someone who is causing her anxiety or stress.  She typically stays neutral in many situations where people tend to pick sides, whether it’s a personal situation or something bigger like a political issue.  It is very interesting to see her be so very different in how she handles things at home and elsewhere.

Most people are like that, but maybe not to the extreme that she is, myself included.  We all behave differently around the people we love the most, especially when it comes to how we handle being stressed or upset about something.  We think more carefully when it’s a friend or co-worker, but we’re quick to fly off the handle sometimes when it’s our immediate family.  Or perhaps our fuses are a lot shorter with the people we are with the most.  That may be because there’s a greater chance they will end up causing us to experience negative feelings because of how often we are with them.  And who doesn’t feel the most comfortable letting the people who know us the best and are supposed to love and support us the most see us at our very worst?

It’s very challenging coping with conflict when personality types and how we react to stress and negative feelings are so different.  Understanding the differences and talking about them may help.  In my opinion, having the courage to speak your mind at an appropriate time rather than avoid discussing things while also being willing to listen are both important skills in coping with conflict or preventing it in the first place.  We can’t avoid it altogether, but if we are willing to try to minimize it and also address the issues to try to resolve them in a constructive way, then perhaps life can be a little more peaceful.  If only I could convince the rest of my family to embrace that philosophy!

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