Conflict is a part of life, and part of the journey towards negotiation win-win outcomes. But if conflict and uncomfortable for you, I’ve got just thing thing…
You should go out and pick a fight with someone.
Before I go any further I need to put in a disclaimer.
I am not a psychologist or a personal boxing trainer. This information has no regards for your personal circumstances or ability to hold your own in a fight. Please seek cross-fit training advice before acting on information presented here.
That said, go and pick a fight.
This was the advice I gave a friend of mine the other day.
Now I’m not advocating violence. But my advice to her was that she should go and seek out some conflict. She should find someone she has some disagreement with and thrash it out.
As a training exercise.
Pretty radical advice right? You should hear the advice I gave her on weight loss.
But hear me out. It’s not that crazy.
I won’t say her name. Let’s call her Joan of Arc.
Now Joan was a bit of a soft touch. That’s her own self-evaluation. She felt like she was always being pushed or bullied about.
She had a hard time saying no.
And so she hated running into those charity spruikers on the street. She hated being asked, ‘do you want fries with that?’
She got a sign that said ‘beware the dog’ just to try and keep salesmen out.
Her house was full of stuff she regrated buying, or felt she had paid too much for.
Generally, she had a hard time standing up for herself.
Joan is a chronic people-pleaser.
The desire to please people is not a bad thing. Not at all. It’s a good thing to care about other people’s happiness.
But in Joan it was chronic. Chronic in the sense that the desire to please others over-rode her desire to please her self.
Now this gets a bit tricky here, because it starts to sound like we’re describing a virtue.
But if you’re constantly pleasing others at the expense of yourself, you’re going to feel betrayed. You’re going to feel let down.
And you’re going to resent other people’s happiness.
“They’re not locked into the same self-sacrificing moral code I am. It’s not fair. “
And so I think it comes down to managing your resources. Life will present you with countless opportunities to make others happy. The art of life is learning how to pursue those opportunities in a sustainable way – in a way that doesn’t deplete your energies and leave you feeling used and unloved.
The way Joan felt.
And its about being a bit intelligent in those choices as well. Does the man at your door selling porcelain poodles really need your money? Is it the best use of $100? Wouldn’t you be better off giving that money to charity and not fill your house with more crap?
But for Joan it wasn’t a rational process. It was instinctive. She instinctively tried to please people. Even if she didn’t know what they wanted or needed, she’d instinctively adopt a self-sacrificing stance. She’d convey a willingness to sacrifice what she wanted so others could have what they wanted.
This made her very popular, but it was like blood in the water for crooks and con men.
And why did she do it? That’s a good question.
Maybe it was something she learnt when she was young. Maybe she had an explosive father and she was always just trying to stay out of the way. It was a strategy she picked up early and it just stuck.
Or maybe it was because she felt unsafe and insecure from an early age. In her fear, she was always trying to keep people close to her. To keep the peace in her social networks. Even if it meant sacrificing of herself.
Or maybe it’s cultural. Maybe it’s that proud British tradition of mindlessly valuing manners over everything else.
And it seems common enough in Australia to think that the Anglo cultural baggage probably does have something to do with it.
And maybe it’s just a combination of factors. I can have my armchair psychologist opinion, but I wouldn’t listen to me.
The question for Joan though is what do we do about it.
And that’s where we come back to my advice. Go and pick a fight.
But that’s not it exactly. It’s more, stop running from situations of conflict, or situations that might put you in conflict. Actively seek them out.
If the check-out chick over charges you 50c, make a point about it. Take it as an opportunity to practice your people skills.
Because for Joan, conflict is deeply uncomfortable. So if the waiter brings her the wrong meal, she’ll rather just eat turkey, than point out that she’s vegetarian.
But conflict happens. It’s a part of life. And often-times, conflict is part of the journey towards win-win outcomes. It’s part of discovering what the other parties needs and wants are, and being clear on your own.
Rushing to please others closes the door to the best possible option for you both.
So Joan, IMHO, needs to get comfortable with being in conflict, and learn to be clear and strong in what she wants for herself.
She doesn’t have to be a dick about it. But that’s the point. Conflict isn’t a sign that there’s a problem. It’s not a sign that someone’s wrong, or someone’s being a pain in the arse.
It can often just be a temporary step on the way towards the best outcome possible.
And it’s a necessary skill if you want to stop be reliant on others for your success.
If you wanted to practice your conflict skills, where would you go?