I’m conflict-averse. How about you? My dear friend, Andy, says he’s conflict-averse, but I don’t know anyone who deals with conflict and confrontation better than he does. When confronted with a conflict, he’s always available, fair-minded, and to the point. And what happens is that the conflict dissappears.

I’m talking about those times when you either keep quiet and sit on something that bothers you, or speak up and bear the consequences.  You might imagine the consequences will be big and painful, and that will keep you quiet. Then feel bad because you didn’t speak up. And, to compound the bad feeling, end up berating yourself for being such a coward.

Sometimes it’s true, the consequences are as bad as you imagine. But not always, and there are ways of mitigating them. It could be that you’re right in what you believe, but not great at effectively managing the confrontation, or being respectful of the other person.

Dr. Deborah Plummer, author of “Some of My Friends re…”, spoke recently at a Psychology gathering on conflict management. She advocates that when the goal is to reach a mutually acceptable conclusion, it might be better to opt for being effective and respectful instead of right.

Here are some of her examples: When the other person is…

  • Racist in some way, she suggests that you approach them with curiosity, looking for common values rather than blaming and shaming;
  • Not well-informed, focus on gathering common facts and testing assumptions (theirs and yours) instead of trying to “educate” them;
  • Being authoritarian, respond as an adult (rational) instead of a child-like (dependent) position, in order to shift the dynamic;
  • Demonstrates bad logic or bad thinking, recognize that you aren’t going to be able to change that, and move on with grace.

With every one of these examples, there is a common factor – maintaining your own inner balance and openness to the other. Once closed, none of us can deal well with conflict.



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Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at .

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