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I used to think conflict was bad.
I no longer do.
Because conflict has changed my life for the better. Much better.
And it's made me a better person.
Now I realize that, to become better with every passing year, I need more conflict in my life--not less.
In this issue, you'll learn why that is--and how you can deal with someone who avoids conflict in the first place.
A Story About Conflict From My Youth
I had a friend back in middle school and high school. Let's call him "Dan."
Dan was the kind of guy who avoided conflict. Instead of standing up for what he believed in, he would be anything others needed him to be.
The problem was: I needed him to be my friend, a person I could rely on.
And since he was a chameleon and changed who he was depending on the situation, I felt like I couldn't fully trust him.
Any time I tried to talk to him about it, he shrugged it off and pretended like it wasn't happening.
It was maddening.
The more I tried to figure it out, the more frustrated I became. I was bitter that he couldn't own who he was and present that identity across a variety of friend groups and different scenarios.
As soon as I felt like I knew Dan well, he would let me down by changing his beliefs to fit in with whomever we happened to be around.
Eventually I gave up, and we started to drift away from each other when we graduated from high school and went off to college.
Now I realize what the relationship needed to be strong was conflict.
Growing Up Means Not Avoiding Conflict
As I got older and became an adult, I realized that conflict is the missing ingredient in a lot of relationships.
Think about any strong relationship you've had or any great team you've been a part of.
If I had to venture a guess, I would say that your relationships were strong not for a lack of conflict but because of that conflict.
Conflict isn't fighting for the sake of fighting.
No, it's showing your true colors and owning who you are. It's being vulnerable so that others might do the same. It's trusting that stepping out onto the ledge will lead to others joining you so that you can all admire the expanded view together.
Here's what conflict does:
- It allows you to be real
- It gives you a chance to be rejected or accepted for who you are
- It shows a commitment to get to the heart of the issue
- It helps you reach a new normal within a relationship or a group
You might be wondering about all of this...This may not jive with your experience.
You might think:
How does conflict do this?
Wouldn't it be better to avoid conflict?
Let's think about this for a second. Let's review the benefits of conflict.
When you break a bone, it often grows back and heals stronger than before.
When you have a fight AND communicate your way through it, you learn new things about the person with whom you're fighting.
You learn that common ground is not a mirage in the distance but a prize to be attained in the here and now. Each battle you get through makes you stronger.
Now, I'm not telling you to go out and hurt people's feelings for the fun of it. Far from it.
Because that's not conflict. That's abuse.
Conflict is a meeting of the minds and hearts.
How to Deal With Someone Avoiding Conflict
But what do you do if, no matter how hard you try, that person you're up against just won't address what you're trying to tell them?
You have a few options:
1. You can decide it's not worth it
You might be wondering why I started with this one. The truth is that, if your heart isn't in it, it's not worth taking the blows that conflict requires. It's not worth even being in the arena. Because you will get dirty when you address conflict. You first need to decide if this is a hill you want to die on.
2. You can hold your ground
If you do decide to fight for what you believe in, then you have some choices to make. Do you hold firm with your positions or do you waver? Do you agree to negotiate or do you draw a line in the sand? You have to decide what it's worth to you. You have a right to make your case. Your ideas have merit, especially if they're backed with strong evidence. Break the larger conflict into mini-battles and decide what's worth holding onto and what can be given up
3. You can educate yourself
If someone is avoiding conflict, they likely have a reason for it. I believe my high school friend was--and is--a good person. I just think he detested being disliked BY ANYONE. He couldn't stand not being seen as the perfect one. So he tried to be perfect for everyone. In the process, I believe he lost himself. If I were mature enough, I would have been self-aware enough to know that this friend was dealing with some things. I had my ideas, but I didn't research every path I could. I didn't collect all the evidence that was available. Educating myself likely would have changed the actions I took, and it would have saved me a lot of headaches in the process.
Conflict is often viewed as a bad word, as something that should be avoided at all costs. But it's simply not true.
Conflict is a necessary part of a healthy relationship.
When you avoid it, you avoid the opportunity to grow as a person.
When you embrace it, you embrace your full potential.
Because you're choosing a path towards becoming stronger, more resilient, and more knowledgeable than you were before.