At first glance, most readers may think they do not avoid conflict. In fact, most will say they stand up for their beliefs. However, are we just shouting our views or embracing conflicting ideas to learn? I would state most of us avoid conflict and allow it to get to the point where anger divides the team or relationship.

Simply sharing our views on a topic isn’t standing up for a view, it is evangelizing it. When we think our method or beliefs are the only way, we are starting the argument with a closed-mind and we leave no room for other views that could improve our stance. This might be the best way for us, but not for all. We have to recognize we have this bias and that others do as well. There is a reason that ancient wisdom says to not discuss religion or politics. That is because these are ingrained into who we are. However, this does not mean that we can’t work together to solve an issue or leverage the strengths in our beliefs for the betterment of all.

Have you ever had a major disagreement with someone and then figure out it was because of a basic misunderstanding? I am willing to bet EVERY disagreement you have with another is because of this. It may have escalated into something much larger because of the back and forth, but it most likely started from something minor. Here is a very simple example of this with me. Years ago I was walking through a crowd and made eye contact with a random person. Now, Man Law states that eye contact mustn’t be held for too long unless you are looking to start something and I broke this law. What started off as the friendly make eyes-give head nod customary exchange that happens 100 times each day, escalated quickly. This simple exchange caused us both to get angry and we actually walked towards each other with ill-intent. Finally, common sense prevailed and I realized this was idiotic and brushed it off by saying, “my bad, I thought you were someone I knew.”

How stupid is that?! We almost came to blows over absolutely nothing! Now, if something like that can escalate, imagine a conversation about something we actually care about. A lifetime of studying conflict has taught me the cycle of escalation is a downward spiral with no easy escape. Bob plays a simple prank on me. I look dumb in front of my peers and have to “get him back.” However, my payback prank has to be bigger than his was. Now, he needs to save face and return the “favor.” These prank wars often turn into much more as people feel they are backed into a corner and need to defend themselves.

Ever ask someone why they are being so defensive? It is because they are feeling attacked. This shows as they snap back with name-calling or a reaction that doesn’t fit the situation. This should be your sign to step back and remove your own emotion from the situation (unless your aim is to attack them). Don’t call them a name back or try to prove them wrong, seek to understand their thoughts and give them a way out. For example, when I pretended I knew the person and offered him a way out of the downward spiral. Most people want to avoid this type of conflict and are going to grab that olive branch. A lot of people refuse to do this in an effort to not be thought of as weak; however, when others have done the same thing for me, I have never thought less of them. In fact, I usually think the exact opposite. Still not convinced? Try it on something small and see if you can still look at yourself in the mirror.

Conflict is not the problem most people have, it is the tension that bothers us. If we fail to deescalate this tension, we are thrust into fight or flight mode the whole time and no one is thinking about the actual problem. Once the name calling and defensive stances are removed, a discussion over what is actually the issue can occur.

I read a lot of Facebook threads where someone posts something and then another replies with a differing view that has a snarky tone. Within moments, this becomes a name-calling fest and both sides are angry. Recently, I saw where someone handled this masterfully. Someone posted something with a political bias and a “friend” hopped on there to call her “uneducated” and cited the usual blanket retorts ALL of these political responses have. This went back and forth a few comments until it turned into a name calling match. Somewhere in the midst of this a third person intervened trying to see what a solution could be. The main instigator kept attacking, but when the third person refused to escalate, she stopped and moved on to troll the next thread. (Side note: I just emailed my friend and she said that person deleted her comments because I wanted to screen share).

This just proves how useless Facebook or social media debates can be. These platforms remove the human aspect of looking the other in the face; however, they also don’t encourage a discussion about the issue. These platforms actually. accentuate the need to save face by trying to make the other person look dumb. Instead of trying to “convert” others, ask why people feel the way they do and learn what the issue really is. Attack the issue, not the person. This is the ONLY way we can work together.


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