When did you last have an argument? Today, this week, this year or this decade? When you are provoked do you shout about it or run for the duvet? Do you tend to get it all out in the open and say it as it is or do you keep your feelings to yourself? Do you hate to leave problems unresolved or do you do everything to keep the peace? Do you end up regretting what you said or that you didn’t speak up?
For years I avoided arguments wherever possible, but eventually I learnt that it wasn’t such a great idea.
Often the issues wouldn’t go away, they would just smoulder under the surface and then once every five years they would erupt in a very irrational outburst, often at some poor unsuspecting person totally unconnected to the original issue.
The problem is that I was a conflict avoider. The kind of hedgehog who curls themselves up in a ball, withdraws and hopes that the problem will just disappear. Other friends of mine have the opposite approach. When they get angry, hurt or upset, their spikes will bristle and they will close in for the attack. There’s no doubt what they are thinking or feeling!
Perhaps you recognise yourself in those approaches. Do you tend to withdraw or attack (or withdraw and then eventually attack like me) when you are provoked? The truth is that none of those approaches are conducive to building authentic relationships. Why?
Because when we withdraw we get defensive and don’t allow others to know what we are truly thinking or feeling. And if we attack, we will create a situation where we might break trust and hurt others with our angry words or actions.
So, what is the answer? Conflict is inevitable in any relationship but how can we respond in a way that helps to build authentic connection and not harm it? In the Naked Hedgehogs' Bootcamp we look at the answer to that over several sessions but for the sake of brevity here are some questions for you to consider this week.
If you tend to withdraw...
Your challenge as you de-prickle will be to speak up more and get out from behind your defences. What one step could you take this week to let someone close to you know what is concerning or upsetting you or making you angry?
If you tend to withdraw and then finally attack...
Your challenge will be to learn to vocalise issues earlier before they build up. What one step could you take this week to deal with a concern, issue or hurt that has been worrying you for some time?
If you tend to attack...
Your challenge is to limit the damage you might cause and resist reacting or saying what you don’t mean when you feel flooded with emotion. What one step could you take this week to help you express your disagreement, anger or hurt without blowing a fuse?
So, what do YOU think? What helps you to withdraw or attack less? What does it mean to deal with conflict authentically? Please let me know below (or via e-mail privately if you are shy!)