The Dangers of Avoiding Conflict

The Dangers of Avoiding Conflict

I grew up in a home where I was regularly yelled at for doing things like leaving lights on, for eating too much, or wanting too much. I was told that it was my job not to make my father angry, and so I felt like I was constantly stressed, and feeling like I was walking on egg-shells around the house.   I was taught that we had to respect and obey our elders, and the idea of standing up for myself was completely foreign to me.   Since I didn’t believe I would be able to avoid his anger, I tried to not have feelings and needs.   This set me up for a lifelong pattern of isolating when I was unhappy, and trying to deal with it on my own.

The problem with this model, is that as an adult, I was always bending to try to appease others.   Because I was so afraid of making others angry, I’d often give up my own needs. This made me feel angry and resentful. When I didn’t stand up for my own needs, I let people take advantage of me, and then they were not able to respect me time and time again, I felt like I got the short end of the stick. I felt like a victim, and “it’s not fair” became my mantra.

Jayson Gaddis, host of the Smart Couple podcast, teaches people how to have healthy long-term partnerships.   One of the most important things we need in order to have a healthy long-term relationships is as he says, is to know how to have conflict. We Americans have this distorted view that once we find the right person, we are going to live happily ever after. Too many of us believe that we shouldn’t disagree, and that if we do, that the problem is with us, or with our partner.

But Jason Gaddis says conflict is inevitable.   We are different people and no two people are exactly alike. At some point, if we spend enough time together, we are going to disagree, but it’s how we do it that determines whether our relationship will last.

Conflict if done right should lead to a greater understanding of each other’s needs. In healthy relationships, the members of both parties can speak their truth, and expect to be heard. And once a couple understands the source of the conflict, they should strive to develop a win –win solution. In other words, conflict done right should lead to a better relationship.

But too many of us don’t know how to have healthy conflicts, so we avoid them.   Conflict-avoidance contributes to our divorce rates, strained family dynamics and hurts our friendships. Conflict avoidance hampers our ability to get our needs met in local institutions and our government. Given the direction our country has gone this year and our response, I am deeply concerned that we are losing the things we cherish the most about our country, because too many of us are afraid to fight as hard as we should to get our needs met!

Michael Moore’s movie “Where to Invade Next” shows us rights that other countries have (that we don’t) and how they managed to get them. Many of their labor rights laws, their health care, education and equal rights were put in place because citizens were willing to fight hard for them.   They engaged in civil disobedience en mass, stopped working, disrupted traffic and economic activities, and as the movie shows, they got results!

Meanwhile, in the US, we are losing our democracy, our labor protections, our internet privacy, our net neutrality, our educational systems, our equal rights, immigrant’s rights, our species, and our planet and more.

I studied slavery, the Holocaust, the internment of the Japanese during WWII, and the Chinese Cultural Revolution in my youth. I’ve always tried to understand the forces the drove such large scale cruelty to happen, so that we would know how to prevent it. While there were other forces at play, one of the reoccurring themes was that not enough citizens were willing to do enough to stop their governments from targeted cruelty.

I don’t think most people were purposely looking away. The truth of what was happening was likely too hard to bear. I hear the belief often that things will swing back “as they always have”.   But we cannot count on our leaders to do this for us. Most of them are in leadership positions because they have money and want power. And while there are compassionate leaders, too many of them have lost their hearts by being bought out. If we want our needs to be met, we are going to have to learn to embrace conflict and stand up for our rights.

So how do we do this?

Since I am still a student of how to do conflict well, I am going to refer you to my 2 favorite resources, that focus on how to do interpersonal conflict.

Jayson Gaddis teaches an excellent course on how to do conflict. You can read more about that here.

Another excellent resource is Rachel Alexandria, author of the book Women Overboard! Six Ways Women Avoid Conflict and One Way to Live Drama-Free. She offers a course called: Power Embodied: 3 Months of Guidance for Productive Conflict and Better Leadership.

While I am still a student of healthy conflict,  if you find it difficult to implement what you’ve learned, releasing subconscious barriers can help make that change relatively easy.     If you are in need of soothing your relationships, learn more about the Body Code and contact me to schedule a complimentary consultation.

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