Fear Of Conflict Drives Us!
Fear of conflict may be the main factor distorting human communications. Can you recall a time when you did not say something you needed to say because you, “Didnt want to fight”? This many be one of the most common human experiences. When people say or think, “I dont want to fight.”, what do they really mean? They probably mean that they had childhood experiences where they expressed their truth and it led to a dramatic scene of conflict. Now they connect telling their truth with unpleasantness. They also mean that they expect the other person to be unhappy with what they need to say. Its likely that in the past they have lived with “anger addicts” whose explosive tempers created a fearful atmosphere.
They mean that theyve not been able to separate those childhood scenes from present day. They also mean that the fear has become so entrenched that they dont even want to attempt communicating their truth. Probably they dont think they have the right to express their truth. Lastly, they mean that they dont have the skills to express themselves, and dont know how to learn them.
One solution is what I call “Creating a Container”, meaning a safe container for the expression.
1. For your early practice of this skill, identify people you know who truly love and support you, that you trust, and who dont have a history of raging. Do not do this with “anger addicts”, at least until you have gained skill.
2. Ask the person if they would be willing to work with you to help you gain skill in this area.
3. Tell them that you need a promise from them that they will not be reactive to anything you say. Explain that you want to practice, and might not say it effectively at first. Ask for their patience and feedback in hearing what you have to say, “so that you can learn”. Engage them in helping you.
4. Also ask them to work with you until the practice is complete and to agree not to leave.
– When you have “set the container”, express what you have to say. Pay attention to expressing and owning your feelings. Use “I feel” statements rather than “You do…” statements. Do not use “you” forms. “You do this…”, “You do that…” will automatically create defensiveness and start a fight.
– Pay a lot of attention to your tone of voice. Eliminate anything accusatory, victim language, whining, “You always do…” statements.
– Before you start, think about a result you want such as more help with household chores, a different kind of treatment, having some time alone, or a night out with the guys.
– Make an effort to ask for feedback from the other person, and be sure you are getting it throughout the conversation. After every statement of yours, ask about any way your expression could have been more effective, or about how it sounded to your partner.
Valuable feedback might be things like, “You seem too fearful.”, “That sounded accusatory.”, “That would make me mad.” Keep working until the feedback is that your expression works, communicates “cleanly” and is likely to give you the desired results.
– Practice this as much and as frequently as you can and youll find that fear of conflict no longer will prevent you from being honest about your feelings.
What is the best way to handle conflict? Your mother told you not to hit anyone, and your dad said don’t you dare run. When you enter the workforce and you face a conflict situation, what choices do you have? In real life, we cannot beat up our opponents. If we do, we might find ourselves in custody. Some of us do decide to “get even,” which often isn’t the best choice either. If we “turn tail and run,” we kill our self-confidence.
I offer one more choice. Communicate. Conflict occurs “When two or more people occupy the same space at the same time, but there’s room for only one.” As a middle child, I can relate to that definition. No matter which particular space I wanted to occupy, one of my sisters claimed it. Whining, complaining, punching didn’t alter that reality. As an adult, I can see situations of conflict arising every day. The space might not be the window seat, but it might be the office with the window. The space might also be a philosophical view. When two people collide over ideologies, they hold a mental space that only they can occupy.
How can we resolve conflict through communication? I’ve created a method of communication, the Say It Just Right Model that can help us. This practical model will help you communicate your way out of conflict.
The Say It Just Right Model has three components:
The Three C’s
Change. Recognize that change happens within you. You cannot change other people. Once you recognize this very important fact, you will stop trying to impose your will on others. What you want to do is say what you want to say, listen to the other point of view with an open mind, and then move on. The other person must decide to change.
Curiosity. Enter the conflict situation with a genuine interest and curiosity. When you come into the conversation acting as if you have all the answers, how can you discover what the other person is thinking? Use your natural born curiosity to discover what prompted someone to do something or what prompts them to want something.
Compassion. By putting yourself in the other person’s place, you discover what it feels like to be that person. What is going on in their mind? What concerns, values, interests occupy their time?
The Decision Points
Before deciding to enter into a conflict discussion, you must consider three components.
What are the Costs? When you look at costs, you examine what you will gain by having the conversation and what you might lose by not having the conversation. You want to look at these issues realistically. Will you really lose your job if you confront your boss over a disagreement? Will your marriage end because you want your spouse to do more work around the house? How important is it to you to directly confront this behavior? If you do not confront the behavior, will it happen again?
What are the Limits? Where are you going to draw the line? Before you go into a conflict conversation, you want to make sure you are clear about what you will accept and what you will not accept. In other words, what concessions are you willing to make? Where is your line in the sand?
What are the Power Sources? Power comes in many shapes and sizes. Just because you are the subordinate does not mean you hold no power. Think about the power you do hold and the power the other person holds. How can you use your power to your advantage? How can you emphasize your assets?
How people respond to you depends a lot on their personality style. Here are some tips for dealing with four typical personality styles.
Aggressor: Be direct yourself. Know what you want to say and say it quickly. Do not respond defensively when they attack. Remember they attack everyone. In this instance you must have very clear limits.
Persuader: Allow them to talk. Ask open questions that get them talking about the problem or issue at hand. In this instance you will want to show a lot of curiosity. Be open and listen.
Fact-Finder: Give them facts and data that support your position. Be as direct as you would with the aggressor, but in a clear and orderly way. In this instance, you will want to make the Power Sources real clear. It helps if you can discover a mutual goalsomething you both wish to accomplish.
Listener: Share openly what your concerns are. They will listen to you. Your job is to listen to them with compassion. Show them the same compassion they show you. Do not end the conflict with a mutual apology without a resolution.
Now that you have thought through the Decision Points and you have decided the type of personality you are dealing with, you are ready to conduct the Say It Just Right conversation with the Three C’s in mind.
Conflict series, part 1
Peace-faking or peace-breaking. Most of us choose one road or the other when we encounter conflict. And conflict is an inevitable fact of life. What does the Bible say about resolving it and how can we work through it so that it becomes an opportunity to glorify God, serve others, and grow to be like Christ?