Conflict is a tricky thing. It’s scary, confronting and often escalates so fast we barely know what has happened. If you’ve ever found yourself confused as to why someone got so upset or angry with you (or vice versa), read on. I’ve compiled a list of things we do in conflict, usually unconsciously, that can hurt or upset others and make the conflict a zillion times worse:

  • Insist on talking about the issue when you want to (instead of consulting with the other person about when would be good for them, if they want to work through it at all)
  • Assuming that everyone works through conflict the same way you do
  • Being too cool, detached and rational and not expressing emotions
  • Demanding the other person be more rational and less emotional
  • Being impatient and not giving the other person time to process their thoughts and feelings
  • Dismissing the other person’s experience and feelings, saying things like “you take things to personally
  • Not taking responsibility for your behaviour; “can’t you take a joke” is a classic example!
  • Using others who aren’t in the conflict to try and strengthen your position; for example “it’s not just me who thinks blah, blah…everyone else does too
  • Making general or stereotyping statements, “you women/men are all the same…
  • Flat out denying wrongdoing
  • Not being open to what the other person is saying
  • Using irony or sarcasm
  • Failing to recognise or acknowledge certain social privileges you have that the other person doesn’t (grab The Little Book of Power through the newsletter sign up on this site for more about this)
  • Being condescending by acting like you are above the conflict somehow, like you are helping or facilitating the other person through their problem
  • Raised voices and waving arms etc.

This list is great to build your awareness of how to behave well in conflict, but it can also help you understand why sometimes you’ve been upset by others’ behaviour without totally understanding why.

NOTE: You’ll notice I don’t list throwing or hitting objects, name calling or physical violence. This is because these behaviours move out of the realm of interpersonal conflict and into abuse.

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