Manage Unmanaged Conflict
The Problem with Avoiding Conflict
Let’s be honest, it’s impossible to avoid conflict when it is everywhere. While some of us do our best to avoid it and make peace with others at our own expense, there are others who thrive on creating it. I’ve always been the “peacemaker” in my family and in my relationships, but it wasn’t until I understood the Unmanaged Conflict Cycle that I learned how to maintain a more objective position so that I could keep my boundaries in tact in the process.
The household where I grew up was full of conflict and instability, mostly because my mother was struggling with her own severe emotional traumas and alcohol dependancy. So, as a naturally sensitive and empathetic person, the problem for me has always been about feeling uncomfortable around conflict and doing my best to avoid it. This seems to have only ever led to creating a pattern for myself of placing my own needs on the altar of “peace”, allowing my needs to go unmet while at the same time never actually achieving the peace that I so desired.
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Unmanaged Conflict Explained
Stage 1: Confusion
Conflict always begins with confusion. “I thought this was happening but it looks like that is happening. What’s going on here?
Stage 2: Dilemma
Did I misunderstand something? The next step has to do with a role dilemma. We need to figure out who is at fault for the confusion. Is it me or is it you?
Stage 3: Injustices
Once we’ve decided that “it’s your fault”, we start bringing out the list of our stored injustices. Not only are they to blame for this particular mess, but we’ve got a list of all the other times they were guilty of something similar. So, “it’s your fault and you always do this.”
Stage 4: Confrontation
You’re not going to let them get away with that, are you? Of course not! Everything was fine until they did that thing that they always do and you’re not about to take the blame for this mess. So, here comes the inevitable blowout.
Stage 5: Adjustment
We need to have resolution. Did they accept responsibility? Did they disagree and deflect instead, producing their own list of injuries and blaming you? Whether we can find common ground and agree or dig in our heels and escalate the battle, the confrontation eventually comes to an end. This is where each side makes an adjustment as a result of the conflict, usually in terms of distance. We can grow closer together or further apart, emotionally or physically.
Handling Conflict With Integrity
How can we use our new understanding of the unmanaged conflict cycle to stop trying to avoid conflict and start managing it instead, while still maintaining healthy boundaries? It helps if we can recognize that we don’t have control over whether or not there is conflict, so we can stop taking responsibility for it every time it is in our path. Understanding how conflict arises and the process that it naturally undergoes allows us to be more objective in how we choose to manage it.
Don’t take it so personally. Some people just can’t live without it and it has nothing to do with you or with anything you’ve done. If you’re in an emotionally abusive relationship with an intimate partner, friend, co-worker, or relative, they will devise one conflict after another in order to keep you confused and exploit your natural instincts to create peace and do your best to please them – even when you know you’re not at fault. It’s all about control and manipulation, so what we experience as “conflict” they experience as “satisfaction”. I know right.
You are only responsible for what you can control.M. ROCK STONE
So, if you’re constantly experiencing conflict in one of your relationships, it’s time to look in the mirror. Take a good look and see yourself without filtering your perception through the eyes of the other person. Stop asking yourself, “Why don’t they..?” and “Can’t they see..?” Start asking yourself what you can control in this situation. If someone is in the habit of falsely accusing you and forcing you into a defensive position, do you have any control over that? Stop taking responsibility for it. Stop trying to convince them of anything. They already know you are a good person, that’s why they are throwing crap at you.
You are only responsible for what you can control. Learn to emotionally detach yourself from the person in the situation so you can take a more objective view of what you are experiencing. Accept that you are a unique expression of the God source and your personality and preferences are unique to you, just as it is for everyone else. For some people that means “making peace”, while for others it means “making war”. Don’t assume that everybody wants Peace, but look in the mirror and love the one that does.