“… you both get dirty and the pig enjoys it” – George Bernard Shaw
The internet is packed with suggestions on how to confront someone, or how to overcome your fear of confrontation. If you identify as an introvert or ambivert, you’ve probably looked those up. However, there is an overwhelming lack of articles that do not communicate the importance of walking away from petty conflicts. Today, I want to discuss the benefits of walking away from petty conflicts, some strategies to do so, and some inferences why we were always taught to face problems head on instead of walking away. I also want to disclaim that not all conflicts require you to walk away. If you find yourself in a conflict that escalates, please find someone to help you out, or talk to a trusted friend or family member!
Before I jump into the benefits of walking away, we need to get familiar with who exactly we’re walking away from, high conflict personalities, or HCPs. According to Psychology Today, HCPs have 4 main characteristics: 1) They often blame others, 2) They have all-or-nothing mindsets, 3) They have intense emotions and 4) They display threatening or erratic behaviour. When it comes to personalities such as these, walking away from an unnecessary conflict is going to save both parties involved so much time and energy. By walking away, it also gives both parties time to reflect on emotions they may have felt during the conflict. It’s important to keep in mind that people are not born with high conflict personalities!
According to the Psychological Care and Healing Center, “It is believed that HCP is related to an insecure or disrupted attachment in childhood.” There is no specific cause that results in HCP, nor is there a link between this disorder and a physiological condition. When we choose to walk away, we avoid entering a negative emotional spiral, claims Jeanna Brett of Harvard Business Review. Falling down this spiral becomes a negative fog that makes us feel accountable for every personal wrongdoing, when really, we can be learning from them.
Next, I want to investigate why we may feel inclined to face problems through a confrontational manner, or to reciprocate the negative energy of the other party. First, we can infer that walking away is deemed to be an act of cowardice, as it appears that one can’t solve their own problems. I disagree with this sentiment. Dealing with confrontation has nothing to do with bravery, instead how well you know yourself and the situation you’re in. In addition, the lexicon we choose to employ in our daily lives may also be a reason. If you go to any athletic event, for example, we often hear the crowd cheering for their teams by saying “Crush em’!” or “Destroy them!”. This language can facilitate confrontation, and we see this when our favourite player gets up close and personal with the ref after a seemingly undeserving foul. This language also reinforces high conflict behaviour. Remember, one of the characteristics of a HCP is their all-or-nothing attitude. This sort of language allows them to carry out this response.
Finally, I want to share some strategies that I’ve used in the past to walk away from unnecessary conflicts.
- Understand the issue at hand. Chances are the conflict started due to a misunderstanding. Once you are able to understand the issue, it makes it easier to pinpoint areas of relevance.
- Silence is golden. Most of the time, people instigate conflicts if they’re stressed or tired, and try to relieve that stress by projecting it onto someone else. In this situation, staying silent until they’ve finished speaking gives you a chance to process what they’re trying to say, and it gives them a chance to reflect on what they’ve said. Please keep in mind that not every conflict is going to involve a HCP. Sometimes people really feel burnt out, and haven’t found a peaceful outlet just yet. Be patient with them, and with yourself.
- Don’t avoid, accommodate. If someone wants to get mad about something that doesn’t directly involve you, let them. Let them know that you’re there for them if they need to talk, but allow them to be with their own thoughts after that.
I hope this helps anyone wanting to avoid unnecessary conflicts! Please do keep in mind that if conflicts do escalate, get some help from a trusted source.
High-conflict personality disorder treatment: PCH treatment. PCH Treatment Center. (2021, June 22). Retrieved January 8, 2022, from https://www.pchtreatment.com/who-we-treat/personality-issues/high-conflict-personality/
Brett, J. (2014, November 2). When and how to let a conflict go. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved January 8, 2022, from https://hbr.org/2014/06/when-and-how-to-let-a-conflict-go
The views expressed in this blog are my own, and do not necessarily reflect the policies or views of the University of Victoria. I monitor posts and comments to ensure all content complies with the University of Victoria Guidelines on Blogging.