Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Conflict Avoidance ≠ Peace

Most people don’t like conflict; this is pretty much a fact of life. However, it is also a fact of life that no one can avoid it forever. Unless you are a mountain man living alone in nature, it is inevitable that at some points in your life you will butt heads with other human beings.

For the most part, trying to avoid conflict is a good thing. No one needs more drama in their lives, and it definitely isn’t healthy to seek out arguments with people. If you’re able to let go of the little things that irritate you, the ones that don’t really mean anything, you’ll be able to make your life much more peaceful.

But there are times when conflict avoidance is not the ultimate high road—when it is, in fact, the wrong road. No matter how much we hate to be involved in disagreements, the hard truth is that sometimes it is necessary. Communication is an essential aspect of relationships, and no relationship can be healthy when one person isn’t willing to acknowledge tension. To be healthy, not just as one half of a relationship but as a person, you simply must be able to express your feelings.

Sometimes people let others walk all over them because they don’t want to start an argument. Sometimes someone does something that really hurts us, but we don’t want to have a fight about it, so we keep silent. Sometimes we bite our tongues because we’re afraid of what will happen if we bring up the issue. These behaviors are incredibly unhealthy, and they lead to other unhealthy behaviors like gossiping and passive-aggressiveness (because everyone needs an outlet). 

When a person’s ultimate relationship goal is to never have conflicts, they are effectively giving other people total control over them. If you put yourself in a situation where, no matter what the other person does, you will not say anything about it, you are allowing that person to decide what happens in your life. This is a misuse of our personal freedom, and essentially puts you in an abusive relationship. We unquestioningly condemn physically abusive relationships, but I think that sometimes an emotionally abusive relationship is worse for the simple reason that you may not even know you’re in one.

Conflicts cannot be resolved unless they are talked through. You may think that you can just ignore something and forget about it, but the fact is that you probably haven’t forgotten about it by just pushing it away. All you’ve done is give yourself time to stew; the same issue will come up again later, and again and again, and each time it will cause you more emotional pain. If you want to overcome the problem, you need to address it.

Don’t let yourself be a victim in your relationships. If it becomes necessary to have an argument with someone, don’t think you’re doing anyone a favor by keeping silent and avoiding it. If you want to have healthy relationships with others and be at peace with yourself, you must learn to deal with conflicts. It’s a ridiculously hard thing to do—believe me, I know—but unfortunately it’s just a part of life, and it’s something we all must learn.


Julie W said...

How did you know this has been on my mind all day!!! I am a strong personality and my husband is a peace maker. He refuses to talk about anything with the least bit of tension. He will seriously walk out of a room and not talk to me about it. This is hard when you are trying to decide parenting techniques or rules for children.
I feel like I walk all over him, BECAUSE he will not speak up. I ask him to and he refuses. He would rather avoid.

THanks for letting me vent.
You are right. How do you know when you are the emotional abuser or being abused? And how can you change your behavior to stick up for yourself when it is so against your nature?

I have found that it is all in the way I communicate. If I make my partner feel like he is making the decision or it was his idea, he is happy. If I throw what I want at him then he feels defensive. IT is all about the way you communicate. Accusatory or problem solving.

There is no better feeling than working through a problem together and becoming stronger as a couple. It is so necessary to do construction in a marriage and build stronger relationships.

Miri you are a genious. Thanks!

Miri said...

I'm glad you liked it, Julie. It's a sensitive issue, but it's particularly relevant in my life right now, so I felt like I needed to write it. It's the hardest thing in the world to stand up for yourself sometimes, especially when you know some people will be angry with you for "causing" a fight, but it just needs to be done.

I am Laura said...

I let people walk all over me. Even if I get in a discussion and a issue comes along, I am usually the first to say "Ok we disagree lets not discuss such and such an issue ever again." I actually avoid politics with anyone for this reason. I know I need to change. I need to let others know who I am. If I don't say anything it is like I am agreeing and I don't want that in some circumstance.

Julie W said...

I cannot tell if this post is about relationships with a family member or an employer or friend. But for me I relate in the marriage dept. After having cooled down from my most recent conflict just this week, I fondly look back on my first fight as a married couple. My husband refused to talk about an issue, and when I demanded he "fight" with me to work it out he still gave me the silent treatment. So I left. I got in my car and drove around for a few hours. If he was going to ignore the problem, I was not going to let him pretend like nothing was wrong. When I got home, he was so worried about me leaving him that he FINALLY would talk.

Now 10 years later, we have almost found a balance. Because I love him. And working hard at marriage works.

I may have made progress with the marriage thing, but still struggle with my relationship with sisters, parents and in-laws. I feel these relationships are there to refine my character. It demands all my patience and forgiveness to keep these relationships functioning.

I still love this post, and will need to review it this holiday season...ugh, family is really hard for me!

Lis said...

In my situation, which you know about Miri, it seems almost impossible to do the right thing because it's going to hurt innocent people. It would be nice to have a person delete button. Delete the hurtful people and leave the rest. It's hard for people to know where the line is between 'peace' and confrontation, so some people do nothing, which is giving in. Life's hard a lot of the time....

Nicole said...

vyer, very, very well said.

Miri said...

Julie--it's a post about all different kinds of relationships, obviously including romantic relationships, but not just those.

Liz--Yes, I know what you mean. And that's exactly why it is so hard. But I think the important thing is to know how to assign responsibility, and to not take responsibility for pain that you do not cause. If someone treats you badly and the fact that you aren't willing to just sit and take it causes problems with others involved, that's not your fault. No one should ever ask you to accept abuse for the sake of keeping up a relationship. You can't control others' actions, and if they make choices that hurt people, they will face the consequences eventually. Things might suck in the meantime, but that's just how life goes, because you can't control how people use their agency.