Updated: Sep 12, 2019
You know that feeling you get in your stomach when you know you are going to have to deal with conflict? I know you are with me on this. The first thing that enters your mind is " Oh god..." followed by a sigh as your brain recounts the options you have. You want to avoid having to deal with the situation. Initially you think, can I let this go? Or, if you are really aggravated or "triggered", as my teenagers like to say, you react, and trust me nothing good is going to come out of an emotional reaction. Well, besides letting everyone know you have had it!
We know it isn't healthy in relationships to let everything go! But we still do it! "Come on Karen what the heck?!?" Let me define relationships here, I mean your co-workers, your staff, your boss, your siblings, your partner, your children, the barista, ALL relationships! Except the dog, he can't talk back and he is cute so he gets a hall pass. Even when he eats the $300 pair of shoes I spontaneously bought to go to wear to a wedding, back when I cared what I wore on dates with my partner. And NO I could not afford them, I said it was spontaneous.
So back to our options. You have that feeling in the pit of your stomach, you are a combination of disappointed, frustrated and spinning through how to best handle the situation. So you can say nothing, and go to the gym and have a great work out and forget about it, but oh trust me, it's comin back! Good workout motivation? I think not. Why? STRESS Karen, geezus you do not need any more stress. Stop it.
Then you spin to option two, throat punch! That's it! You are done, you are going to jail. This would be a very good indication you really need to do a stress check. Seriously, what is wrong with you, that is NEVER an option. I repeat NO to the throat-punch. This is when you need to take a good hard look at your life, call your life coach and gets some balance. Go to the gym twice a day and stop taking life so damn seriously. Really! Think about it, you are the one that cannot deal with the situation, meaning you are the one that is not able to control your reaction. All YOU! and All on YOU if that pops up as an option. (disclaimer, I am in no way supporting physical violence or abuse in anyway) Then we quickly spin to option 3, having a conversation in our head with this person and assuming what they are going to say in response....you do it. Its a whirlwind, your emotions are running high, but this is the slow-motion written version of what most of us do. It goes like this " Karen, when I ask you to do something and explain it to you, I should not have to do it myself, or repeatedly explain to you how to do it ..." Then you automatically assume 1. Karen is going to make some ridiculous excuse that is going to make you really have to restrain your emotional reaction. Or, 2. Karen is going to say the same thing she always does, " Im so sorry I didn't know." Scream, visual throat-punch, then what?????
Are you all with me? This is the situation I used to run into all the time, it can sometimes be like working with a dementia patient, except Karen doesn't have dementia. Karen isn't lacking in the cerebral vortex compartment and Karen has a great education. But you don't care you just want the task done, when you want it and properly.
The problem is not Karen, the problem is not a mistake or not doing something, the problem is actually the reactions. You see, if Karen just simply said " I totally forgot I am so sorry I will do it right now." You would be like ok, well that's not the best, but Karen is human so it happens. Right! Because YOU forgot ten things already that morning, so you can relate.
So we can agree that if people just owned up to their mistakes life would be WAY easier! If we all just said it like it was, there would be less reaction, because..... lightbulb moment.....WE ARE ALL HUMAN! Being human is the one thing we can all agree on and it is the one thing we can all relate to. So when Karen is late for the third day in a row because her toddler wants to wear crocs and a tutu to school in the snow. You get it! When Karen forgets to do something lets use a different option.
There is an Option 4. Diffuse, diffuse, diffuse! This is Me, perhaps because I am a yogi and perhaps because I worked with very strong-minded men for 10 years and I got tired of arguing, but today and now this is me. ( except with the teens!) Different approach! If someone does something that heightens your emotions, take a breath and say ok. It's ok to still be angry and it's ok to want to throat-punch them at that very moment. But they are human, most humans are not trying to be jerks or make mistakes. Most people are actually doing their best with what they have and usually 9 times out of 10 there is an underlying reason for the incident that is at hand. It has absolutely nothing to do with what has just happened. Remember, that not everyone has control of their emotions and sometimes people are going to get really angry, and really upset and that is ok. It is ok to address a conflict and get an emotional reaction back. If that makes you uncomfortable, you need to practice it. I don't mean practice ticking people off, but practice asking for what you want. Ask supportively if people need help or to have something explained in another way. Even ask what they understood they were to do. If you were to simply try " hey Karen, is everything ok? I noticed you didn't get the flowcharts done lastnight and I had to go in and do them myself. What is going on? Then listen. Amazingly you just turned what could have been a massive conflict into a conversation. High-five!
The thing is that people are always striving to be perfect, they want to be good at something and make other people happy. That is their natural reaction. So depending on their life experience, different people will react in different ways to criticism. You will get defensiveness, anger, embarrassment, apology and zero "trucks" given.
Keep in mind, that it is up to you how you react to each situation, and in situations where you don't get the conversation you want, sometimes you have to try a different approach. Some people are not capable of being on your wave-length. Sometimes, feeling-out the situation and returning to it with a different set of tools is needed. In many instances I say "Ok, I understand" and then listen to a rant. I then leave the situation and the next day or a few days later, things improve. Why? I didn't emotionally respond, sometimes people react very emotionally and any emotional response from you will make things worse. A missed task is never a reason for yelling and screaming, so if that occurs, think about why that is and understand there is a series of events leading to that type of reaction.
And I beg of you! Please, please, please, make the world less conflicting by owning up to your own mistakes. Even if they are really, really bad. It feels really yucky to deny, defend or lie about making a mistake and it is completely small-minded and immature. Owning up and admitting to your mistakes, proposing a solution and explaining yourself are much more admirable traits.
Of course, there are a lot of ways to deal with any conflict, I am not saying everything can be handled with these 4 nifty tips, afterall this isn't a hack-show Karen.
Get practicing peeps! I would love to hear from you! Mel