Sunday, 9 February 2014

Allowing conflict/disagreements

Image courtesy of patriziasoliani
Throughout my life, I have done my best to try and avoid conflicts or situations where somebody says something that might make me feel uncomfortable. I don't know whether it's down to something that happened in childhood, or down to a part of my sensitive personality which has been repressed .. but whenever someone says something that makes me uncomfortable, there is a seemingly automatic reaction somewhere within my body, which causes a degree of emotional pain. A bit like the mental equivalent of being punched, maybe, although that maybe isn't the best analogy.

It's as if part of me sees criticism or someone telling me some home truths as painful and something to be avoided, in the same way that I'd prefer to avoid being punched ;) So I've held back from getting close to people, partly for this reason. And I guess I also feel a little guilty when I say something to someone that needs to be said. After all, if I am unwilling to receive it, I shouldn't dish it out, right? And I guess I have a small part of me that thinks I don't have any right to tell other people that they're wrong.

We criticise ourselves enough. But when someone else criticises us, it's another matter. Our ego can take it personally. And maybe we can sometimes feel a surge of anger, like we want to punch someone for what they did to us.

Ultimately though, all forms of conflict and criticism are a reflection of something that is within ourselves. We cannot control what other people do or say to us, to an extent at least, and maybe we cannot control our immediate reactions. However, we can control how we see conflict. Even though, initially, a part of me might feel threatened by it, eventually I can realise that people don't hate me just because they may say something that isn't easy to mentally digest. I would say that if people are deliberately trying to hurt you with words, then you need to keep your distance or remove these people from your circles. And sometimes it is necessary to say no to people when they say things that really shouldn't be said, whatever the intent.

But conflict and criticism can be used in a productive way, as long as people are saying things in the right way and with the right spirit. Ok, sometimes it can be hard, especially in close relationships, for things to be said out of love - but, again, if the friendship/relationship is one of love and worth preserving, it is possible and worthwhile to work through disagreements.

Anyhow, back to my first point, where I said that I had done my best to avoid conflict. I have been aware of this for a while, but never really done anything much about it. Maybe I have protected myself from some unnecessary hurt, but also held myself back from rewarding friendships because of it. So now is the time for me to allow myself to be more open. And this means saying more of what I think, even if some things I say may not be particularly nice. I don't want to be known as a 'nice guy' any longer. We all have good and bad sides, and I am not necessarily as nice as some people may think, sometimes. Yes, I want to be loving, but I want to show the whole of me, not just part of me. The dark side of me is part of me, whether I make it aware to people or not .. and if I am to have close friendships and relationships, there will be conflict, there will be people saying things that make me feel uncomfortable, there will be people saying things that could be interpreted as a personal attack. And being sensitive, it is damned easy to take criticism badly.

On the other side of the coin, if there is a situation where I feel I have been wronged or where someone behaves in a way I consider to be slightly out of turn, I find it hard to express how I feel. And I am certainly not alone in this. The workplace is arguably the place where people find it hard to stand up for themselves, and many people are mistreated and taken advantage of but won't say anything for fear of losing their job. But, even in non work situations, I find it hard to express my 'negative' feelings without either being too nice or being angry. Anger can be productive, but too much anger can give out completely the wrong message and turn people away from us. What I want is to be firm, to tell people straight even at the risk of offending them, without wishing to hurt them.

Again, the importance of loving myself needs to be taken into account if I am to resolve my issues around conflict. Once I feel more secure within myself, I will be able to embrace and deal with conflict and disagreements more easily. That's the theory anyhow. I don't want to make myself a doormat and allow people to say things that aren't true. And I'm allowed to disagree with people's opinions. But I need to allow other people to say things that may make me uncomfortable - because it is a healthy part of life. None of us are perfect and we all have room for improvement in certain parts of our lives - and other people are often the vehicle to help us grow.

What experiences do you have of conflict/disagreements etc in your relationships? How has it helped you grow? Do you still find it difficult and would part of you rather 'keep the peace'? I welcome your thoughts.

Peace and love

1 comment:

  1. Andy, love your writing, you are so inspirational and have a lot of wisdom to share. This is one of your major talents please keep doing it.

    (this is try number 2 at commenting lol)


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