Usually, the message is: “when you have self-confidence you do not avoid conflict, you embrace them!” and sure enough I will share the same message in future articles because it is true, most of the times.
However, there are situations where the conflict is not really a conflict or the conflict is not where you think it is, or the conflict is what you think it is, but you are not in it.
These are situations in which you can better avoid getting into the conflict. Where your Self-Confidence is measured not from your ability to embrace the conflict, but from your capacity to pick your battles wisely and appropriately. And I will tell you more about each of these situations, how to recognize them and what to do to respond with Self-Confidence to them in a couple of paragraphs.
Self-Confidence is something we miss the most when in contact with others, especially those others that make us uncomfortable, those we feel in conflict with. Avoiding conflicts is often our strategy to protect ourselves and feeling safe, we do that without realizing sometimes.
And when we decide that we want to become more self-confident, avoidance of conflict is the first thing we are shamed for:
‘You have to embrace conflict with Self-Confidence!’
And you may feel uncomfortable and unease about doing that, understandably, if you are not used to handling conflicts.
This is why I believe starting from what you are already doing great is a good way to enter the real of conflicts. You are about to find out that your choice to avoid certain conflicts was right on the spot, mature, reflective and indicative of the ability to read the room and understand what was really going on. Pat yourself on the shoulder and realize your ‘conflict avoidance’ is actually a skill many others could use to approach properly these three specific circumstances.
CONFLICT VS BULLYING
The first situation in which you can better avoid conflict is when the conflict is actually not a conflict but you are dealing with a bully.
The best way to recognize if this is your case is to observe the situation with attention to the power dynamic.
In a conflict, the power is equally shared by the parties.
In a conflict, both parties are participating in the solution and prepared to change/adapt their behavior/response to the situation.
In a conflict, both parties feel safe within the context of the conflict.
When it is bullying, one party exercise more power than the other, it does it without intention to change and to intentionally hurt/harm the other, and the other doesn’t feel safe.
Bullying seems something that happens to kids at school, but bullies grow up and end up in the workplace, on the schoolyard picking up their children, to the gym, amongst the people in your social network. Some of them still haven’t learned different strategies to deal with people. This is how you may end up being bullied as an adult.
There is a lot that can be said about how to handle bullies, the first step is to realize that what you are in is not a conflict but that you are being bullied. Then you could unmask the situation and say something down the line of: ‘When you say/do …(mention specific sentence/behavior) … I feel undermined (mention your feelings). I would love to find a solution from a place where we share equal power and are both ready to change. How would you find doing that with me?’ (invite the other party in a real conflict for a real solution).
Do you feel this is too much to handle? I understand and what I want to say to you is: realize that the awareness that what you are part of is not a conflict, but that you are bullied, is already freeing you up from negative feelings probably also about yourself and your worth and also helping you understand why you don’t manage to perform/feel better in contact with this specific person. This is a great start already.
THE INNER CONFLICT
The second situation in which avoiding conflict may be the best option is when the conflict is not with someone else’s, but it is actually an internal conflict.
Imagine a situation in which you are preparing for a difficult conversation with your boos. You are tense, worried, stressed out and this is understandable because there is a lot on the line for you. You are afraid things could go south and despite you are ready for that next step in your career, if the conversation goes wrong, you feel it’s going to be a disaster. You know your boos, how he/she can be sometimes and you see scenarios where his/her typical behaviors and reactions can turn out into dangerous conflict. You get so worked up that you start to believe she/he is going to make this so difficult for you…
You start to feel and perceive the situation as if you were actually in a conflict with your boos when actually the conflict is inside of you, between the part of you that want it so bad to go well (worked really hard to get to this point and is ready for the next step) and the part of you that is afraid, (that feel disempowered and victim of the circumstances).
So, there is a conflict, but not where you think it is: the conflict is not outside with another person, but inside of you. Inner conflict can be handled with success, you can go inside of yourself, meet the parties involved (the parts of you) and mediate. Find out how they feel, what they need and come to a solution, an internal solution for yourself.
A possible outcome of the solution of inner conflict is that you realize that your fear about the conversation is actually about the fear of a younger part in you that needs acknowledgment for its efforts, a part that hasn’t got much acknowledgment in the past and that wants it especially from you.
Imagine addressing this within yourself and how much more empowered, self-confident and safe would you feel thinking about meeting your boos for that meeting about your future?
The boos you now look differently at, because you are not confusing anymore what is happening inside of you with what is happening in your environment.
NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS
The third and last situation in which you are better off avoiding the conflict is when there is a conflict indeed, but you are not part of the conflict. When you see other people in conflict and you feel you can help and get involved in it.
This is a delicate one because sometimes it feels appropriate to intrude in other people's business, because one party really seem to need our help: intruding in your children’s fights when you see it escalating or petition for an Amnesty International sponsored case of injustice, are really good examples of when it is ok to get involved in conflicts that were not our own to start with.
However, what I’m talking about here are those subtle situations where you, for instance, see your colleague having a conflict with another colleague and you decide to take part with one of the two because you think he/she is right or needs your help.
This happens more often in some cultures than in others and it may sound like:
‘I don’t think you should treat her like that!’
And I know it is always well intended and coming from a place of caring for others. What I suggest is that you ask yourself the following questions to get clear about what this conflict is triggering in you:
Do I have all the information about this situation?
Am I empowering the person I’m parting with to solve his/her own conflict?
What is actually driving me to get involved?
You can actually find out a lot about yourself going through this process. Understanding what makes that you feel urged to intervene in that specific conflict, between those specific people, has got to say something about you, what is important for you to fight for, how you would like others to take care of you in a conflict situation and much more.
We are used to looking at conflicts as a negative thing that sometimes overcomes us. My intention with this first article about conflicts is to show that conflicts are nothing more than:
If you want to download a pdf with a scheme of these three to avoid conflicts, how to recognize them and how to handle them, find the link below.