How I got over my fear of conflict

August 12, 2008 at 10:59 pm | Posted in Conflict | 7 Comments
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When the mood hit him, my dad was a rager. Very loud and very scary in conflict with others. I believe that much of my difficulty expressing real anger — throughout several decades of my life — springs from often being scared out of my wits by my father’s vitriolic tirades.

When I married I had no tools to guide me in having a difference of opinion with my husband. Unfortunately, my husband lacked tools as well. We were both stuffers, avoiders par excellence, and this ostrich-method had disastrous consequences. Our marriage (the first one) ended after 13 years.

During the years that followed I intentionally sought emotional wellness by reading self-help books, participating in therapy, and practicing a new trust-based way of relating to others. That last piece — practicing — was the key for me. Consciously opening my mouth and saying how I truly felt, with others who cared for me, often felt terrifying . . . yet this was the biggest factor in my getting over my fear of conflict.

Willingly engaging in confrontation still feels slightly unnatural to me. Generally, I have to stop and think about it for a second. But I’m not afraid of it anymore.

When my husband and I remarried more than 10 years ago (that’s right, we chose to try again), I let him know up front that this time I’d be committed to being emotionally honest, that I would no longer run away from conflict. I’m sure there are some days he wishes this wasn’t true (smile), but it’s working for us.

Do you struggle with engaging with conflict? Let me know how you’re overcoming or have overcome your fear.

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  1. We perfectionists and recovering perfectionists are especially challenged with staying honest and direct in conflict.

  2. Conflict – it takes so much courage to choose to enter into. It’s so easy to second guess my feelings and wonder if what I’m feeling is valid. Over the years I’ve decided that the real question when choosing to enter or run from conflict is, “What does it mean to love well?” Am I loving the other person by remaining silent or am I merely protecting myself because I do not want to suffer or dream on behalf of the other who could on many levels make me pay for choosing to speak the truth in love. Of course, the flip side is that I rob myself of the opportunity to be heard and loved well when I choose silence. Yet, it’s seldom easy.

  3. Thank you for your wisdom, Annette. Learning to speak truth and risk conflict is absolutely essential for multiple reasons . . . but the most elemental is so we may love well and be loved well, just as you say.

  4. Society has changed over the past generation, and in many cases the laws, media, and public opinion have given greater value, importance, and acceptance to the female point of view. Unfortunately this has lead to more and more men becoming fearful of conflict, as their point of view is perceived as selfish, self centred, or insignificant. Of course a man’s point of view IS as valid as a woman’s point of view, but society has raised a generation of people who have the perception that a man’s point of view is not important.

    So where does that leave us? Generally men will bottle up a lot. He will write things off as insignificant and not worth fighting over. All these “insignificant” issues churn inside him until one day when he has had to bottle up issue after issue and can’t take any more, a huge fight ensues. He is so frustrated that he has given, and given, and sacrificed, but zero value has been given to these sacrifices, and in fact they have become “expectations” and “entitlements” to women. Of course this is not the fault of women, as the media and special interest groups have programmed women to expect these things from their husbands, and some husbands are oblivious to being programmed as well, though many come to realize this over many years.

    There needs to be a balance, as this generation of men have been forced to bottle up more than a human can be expected to do. Society needs to swing back the other way a bit and place more value on a man’s point of view. This will remove that fear of conflict, and help couples and families stay together, which in the end will help everyone. Otherwise more marriages will end in divorce and there will be fewer and fewer marriages as men realize it is not possible to stay in a relationship with a woman in the current social environment.

  5. I just found this blog and will be returning.

    I grew up with a manipulative, deceptive, controlling mother, and have had to fight throughout my life for wholeness. Learning to pursue truth and to speak the truth in love has been essential

    I’m writing about my life struggles with this on my blog,

  6. I never really realized my fear of comflict untill now! All my relationships, specially those that I was really in love end up dull e superficiall due to my fear of conflict. Right now is happening again! I feel that the man I am dating is getting more and more distant…and I didn’t realize why! It is because I don’t voice my oppinion in a assertive way when conflict arises for fear of “rock the boat” and being reject. As a pay off my relationship never is deep enough…I guess awareness is a good way to start some changes!

    • Thanks for your comment, Janete . . . awareness is definitely a great first step, in seeing how you show up in relationships. If you’re not already working with a good coach or therapist, this process might really help you as you practice manifesting as your vibrant, whole self with others.

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