There are a few ways to handle conflict, and if you are anything like me, you know avoiding it is one way to do it. Depending on your first childhood experiences, everyone was taught and molded how to navigate conflict differently. Some families are loud communicators and learn to engage with conflict in a way that causes more conflict; some families go through real tribulations and their way of navigating them is to pretend they never happened. Some families sit down and have family meetings and mold what a messy conversation should look like.
From my own experience, conflict was always scary. I was taught to fear conflict based off of what my inner child had to endure. Where there was conflict, there was pain. Where there was pain, there was loss and feelings of despair. For the longest time, conflict looked like shutting down. Conflict looked like not having a voice because I had a real life fear around what voices sounded like during problems in general.
People avoid conflict for many reasons, and a lot of the time it doesn’t even have to come from a space of trauma like mine. Conflict doesn’t feel good to anyone. We are not often taught how to actually work through it in a way that doesn’t have to feel bad, so we just associate it with a negative space.
The thing is, though, when we avoid conflict, we avoid love. We avoid joy. We avoid growth. We avoid learning how to love people better. We avoid practicing how to speak our truth. We avoid getting familiar with our own needs.
In order to not avoid conflict anymore and actually not hate the process of working through things with the people we love most, we first have to set boundaries with the way we engage within conflict.
If we avoid conflict because of the tone and the level of noise that we know is typically used when having conversations, we need to be able to be honest with ourselves about that and then communicate how we need to be spoken to and what we need those conversations to look like.
If we avoid conflict because nothing ever gets worked out, we need to be able to reflect on that reason and then change as well as communicate our intention for the conversation. We have to be able to bring our own minds to a place where we are more solution-focused than problem-oriented, and then we have to be able to communicate that expectation and need to whoever we are navigating something with.
There are ways to make conflict more lighthearted and positive rather than something we dread. There is a way to be able to say, “Hey, this is not working for me but I want to work through this with you. Let’s talk about what needs to happen,” without having it be a negative place.
In order to stop avoiding conflict, we have to give conflict boundaries. We have to be able to say what’s okay for us and what’s not in the midst of a conversation. We have to be able to mold hard discussions in a way that is not only obtainable but effective.
Figure out what your triggers are around conflict and where they came from. Discover what you need conflict to look, sound, and feel like. Practice communicating those needs to the people you love most, including yourself. When we teach people our boundaries, we teach them where the door to ourselves is. And when the door is open, then love, growth, and true connection can come in.