Want to be good at dealing with conflict, but lose your way every time?
What is it that makes conflict so hard for you compared to others?
Why Conflict Gets the Better of You
1. You go too fast.
If you rush into conflict as soon as something upsets you – if you barge into your colleagues office, or phone that family member immediately? It’s unlikely you will do well in the ensuing conflict.
While most of us would love to be so in charge of our emotions and thoughts we could handle conflict immediately, the truth is that most of us need a moment to sort out just what we are upset about, and how we can best express it.
Often told you overreact? You are too emotional? You ‘make a mountain out of a molehill’? But confused by this feedback as your emotions feel so real to you?
It could be a case of an unresolved past. Childhood trauma tucked away in your unconscious can create a myriad of big emotions that attach themselves to any present upset.
For example, if as a child you had an abusive or controlling parent, you might be very sensitive to someone telling you what to do. If your boss points out he told you he doesn’t want a cover page on a report you might feel very upset and storm out of the office. This might make sense to you, but if all your colleagues are shocked by your response, it’s worth considering where your big reactions truly come from.
Manipulation – trying to force others to do what you want – never works well in conflict.
The other person will feel bullied and react strongly and you’ll have a blowout on your hands.
Can’t believe you are manipulative because you are ‘such a nice person’? Being ‘nice’ can be it’s own form of control if it involves making the other person into the bad/wrong one, or letting them know how much they ‘need’ you. Listen to your language. Do many of your sentences start with ‘you’? ‘You did this, you did that’? Are you blaming and criticising?
If this sounds like you, you might want to read about codependency, where someone needs the approval of others to feel good and will ‘nicely’ manipulate to get it.
4. You aren’t being honest about what you are really upset about.
Denial is a defense mechanism that protects us from facing things we are uncomfortable dealing with. When we are in denial our emotions don’t disappear – they just find another outlet.
5. You can’t think or feel anything when conflict happens.
Do you go numb when faced with conflict? Find all your well-thought-out arguments have suddenly fled your head only to be replaced with cotton wool? Only know what you feel or meant to say a day or too later, when it’s too late?
It could be you suffer from what is called ‘dissociation‘ in psychology. This is a habit of ‘leaving the room’ when stress hits, that can almost feel as if you are floating out of your body and ‘watching’ yourself speak and act. It arises from childhood trauma and stress, where this sort of ‘exit route’ was the only way to survive. Of course when the brain continues the pattern into adulthood it is no longer so helpful.
If this is too hard for you, if you feel terrified to tell others no, then conflict will leave you depleted every time. You’ll walk away furious at yourself for again giving in or agreeing to things you didn’t mean to.
This sort of pattern can be a sign of a codependency issue, low self-esteem, or also a side effect of childhood abuse which left you feeling you had no real rights.
7. You have a psychological condition that makes conflict hard.
There are several psychological conditions that can cause someone to struggle with healthy conflict.
Borderline personality disorder leaves someone with both impulsivity and poor emotional regulation skills. This means not only do you ‘go off’ before you can stop yourself, your mood will go from zero to a hundred in record time.
If this article has given you a sneaking feeling that your problem with conflict might be connected to unresolved issues in your past or a possible personality disorder, it’s a good idea to seek professional support. A well-trained counsellor or psychotherapist can create a safe and non-judgemental environment for you to get to the bottom of why you can’t handle conflict well.