As a leading resource for helping people overcome conflict avoidance, I recently did a LinkedIn survey across my general feed and 16 groups I belong to asking: “How often do you feel conflict avoidance contributes to an individual’s or organization’s failure?”
Of the 525 who voted, 71 % answered Frequently; 22% answered Occasionally; 7 % answered Rarely.
I place the majority — not the extreme Left — of the Democratic party in the first category of being highly conflict avoidant which makes them mincemeat to the vast majority of the GOP who is allegiant to Donald Trump.
What is it that causes people to become conflict avoidant?
An obvious answer might be that the majority of conflict avoidant people lack confidence or believe that confronting a conflict will improve the situation and instead believe it will make it worse.
What underlies so many people having little confidence that confronting a conflict will end positively?
A likely explanation would be that their own experience in confronting conflicts or their past experience of watching others — as may have been the case observing their parents –was that it seemed to not improve them and/or made them worse.
Conflict avoidant people usually also avoid conflict with people they perceive to be bullies or highly emotional (those people are more conflict inciters than conflict avoidant) and believe that confronting them or even merely saying, “No,” will provoke them to act more aggressively, belligerently and even violently among in this case some of the extreme Right fringe groups.
There is also another factor at play that is not overtly obvious to conflict avoiders. Underneath their conscious thoughts and behavior is an unconscious factor. Upsetting the other person might cause that person to respond in a way that will make conflict avoiders more upset and possibly bring out a part of their personality that they are uncomfortable showing or even acknowledging to themselves (i.e. the resentful, angry person underneath the rational and reasonable exterior that the world sees).”
Related to this, most conflict avoiders possess what we refer to as an “outrage enrage bifurcate” psychological defense. That means that when a bully or overly emotional person does something that is truly outrageous, conflict avoiders often have great difficulty suppressing and managing internally when they go from feeling outraged to becoming enraged.
An example of that if you’re a conflict avoider is to imagine someone who you have done many things for (most likely to appease and prevent them from exploding) and who you ask a simple favor of and who responds with, “Why should I? You never do anything for me.” If you’ve been in such a situation, you can probably identify with the outrage/enrage that gets triggered in you.
The outrage enrage bifurcate is what you do to immediately shut down your enraged thoughts and feelings before you act on them. Instead, you huffingly say, “Never mind, I’ll do it myself,” instead of launching a verbal tirade at them that is out of alignment — and out of control — with who you believe yourself to be.
If you and many of the Democratic Party are conflict avoiders and the above describes your experience, what can you do?
First, realize that everyone has what is referred to as a Shadow to their personality, first elucidated by Carl Jung. That means that we all have a part of our personality that has destructive thoughts and impulses. Furthermore we spend a great deal of energy suppressing them to prevent us from acting on them in our behavior (because doing that will likely get us into trouble). To compound that, we also have destructive feelings that we spend even more energy repressing, but then act upon with compulsive destructive behaviors including excessive drugs, alcohol, sex addictions, etc., because being aware of them can trigger deeply shameful feelings.
Given that everyone has such a shadow to their personality, as long as you don’t act on those thoughts and feelings and do something destructive to others or yourself, you’re good to go and needn’t feel guilty or ashamed.
Second, what can you do when people across the aisle who are more comfortable and even take delight in fomenting conflict and pressing your buttons?
Our suggestion in those instances is to call those people out and respond to their FED with your FED.
The GOP’s FED stands for Fearsome, Explosive, Destructive comments. Your FED stands for Fair, Equitable and Doable.
So the next time someone from the GOP tries to stir up someone in the DNC with outlandish and outrageous talk, the DNC response should be, “We heard and understand the frustration and anger from our colleagues across the aisle, but we would respond with, ‘Instead of tearing down what we are trying to do to solve our nation’s problems with albeit, imperfect solutions, tell us what your solutions to these problems might be and please made the case for those solutions being fair to everyone they impact, equitable to everyone they impact and most importantly, doable by everyone they impact. Also before you share your answer, make sure it also makes sense to everyone it will impact, feels like it might actually succeed to everyone it will impact and again, be doable by your full constituency and our country.”
That measured response has a decent likelihood of turning a spit in the corner of their mouth, raging and ranting conflict agitator into a deer in the headlights and allows you to walk away with your head held up high instead of a conflict avoider who just had his/her buttons pushed and where the deer in the headlights is you.
* Source: This has been taken from a soon to be released article entitled: “10 Step Algorithm to Go From Conflict Avoidance to Conflict Mastery.” Stay tuned.