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5 tips for introverts on how to handle conflict

by ohleighann

Photo: Leighann Blackwood

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My name’s Leighann, and I’m an introvert. And conflict is hard. 

Can you relate to this? If not, I’m already impressed.

Personally, conflict has always been that one, nerve-wracking subject that I’ve always tried to skirt around. I mean, it’s just not easy for me. And don’t get me wrong – extroverts struggle with conflict too. This short list of tips is really for everyone – so, no discrimination.

Roommates. Friends. Teachers. Bosses. Family.

If you have interacted with any of the above at any stage in your life, you, my friend, have experienced conflict.

And if you haven’t – or just think you haven’t – you should read on.

HAVE A SUPPORT SYSTEM BEHIND YOU

Have you ever tried to handle conflict on your own? And, how did that work out for you? Hmmm, that’s what I thought. Although I commend your bravery and willingness to go it alone, I think there might be a better way to work around this whole addressing it thing. Talk to some people you trust and admire (note: talk, not gossip – you don’t want to aggravate the situation any further), then ask for their advice. One thing I’ve definitely benefited from by doing this is that, in most cases, after talking it out with a trusted friend or loved one, you generally come away with a new perspective. 

Also, it helps take those initial emotional responses down a notch – you don’t want to be bursting out in tears while trying to get your point across through your whimpers or yelling like a banshee in defense. Gather your thoughts and keep your cool. Talk it out first, because holding it in never solves anything. Which brings me to my next point…

  1. DON’T HOLD IT IN

    I’ve done it. You’ve done it. We’ve all done it before. Letting our feelings fester and emotions brew might seem like a good idea at first, but I can tell you firsthand, no good will come of it. Before I go further, I do think it’s important to check yo’self before you wreck yo’self. I mean, it’s definitely a smart decision not to fly off the cuff and go full on HULK with your emotions in order to get your point and feelings across. But at the same time, you don’t want to sit with those icky feelings for too long. It’s not going to help you in the long run, and it certainly won’t help your situation. So, sit with it enough to understand why you were left feeling the way you feel, but don’t let those pesky feelings stay stagnant.

  2. THINK OF WHAT DEALING WITH THIS SITUATION MEANS TO YOU

    Depending on the situation, you might find yourself wondering "is it even worth it to bring it up?" Well, maybe not. For instance, if you get cut off on the freeway driving 70 mph, it’s safe to say that you should probably let that one slide rather than trying to avenge yourself by speeding up and cutting that person off for a short-lived feeling of accomplishment (but of course, you’ve never done that before). But what about if your conflict is with a good friend? Or your boss? Or a family member? Ask yourself this: "what’s it worth to you?" If it’s not worth it, don’t do it. Maybe you can live with this minor or major rift in the relationship. But maybe you can’t. And if you can’t, you need to find some courage and just do it.

  3. BE CLEAR, CONCISE AND HONEST

  4. Okay, you’ve made it. You finally decided to confront them about it. Good for you, my friend! This is a crucial step. Maybe even a defining moment in your life, depending on who you’re speaking with or what the situation is concerning. Don’t panic. You’re here because you’ve decided you can’t go on without addressing it, and that alone means something. Obviously, you have given this some considerable thought and (if you’ve been paying attention) you might have even been able to speak to someone about what you might say beforehand. Whatever you do, remember that you are here because you care about what happens to this relationship. Keeping this in mind can help you to refocus if the conversation gets tense (take some deep breaths) or hostile (uncurl your fists, dude). When you speak, make sure to do it in a way that is —

    • Clear: What happened, from your perspective? How did it make you feel after it happened?
      • Concise: We get it, you’re upset. But we don’t need to know about how you were so upset you went home and ate an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s that night. Get to and make your point – leave out the fluffy stuff ’cause that’s not what you’re here to talk about.
        • Honest: You made it this far. You’re about to be real. No sense in holding back the truth now. Don’t be unnecessarily harsh, if you can help it – but, let’s be real: sometimes the truth hurts. Just tell them the truth – they’re here aren’t they? Give them the chance to hear you out.

        • LISTEN

Maybe it’s just me, but being the extroverted-introvert that I am, listening comes pretty naturally for me. You’ve said your piece, yeah? Good. Now, it’s their turn. From my experience, this can be the pièce de résistance for the entire conversation. You might find that they have a completely different perspective from which they saw the issue or conflict, and it might shock you to know that’s how they interpreted it. You might even find out they were insulted or hurt by you! And to think, you were doubting having this conversation in the first place – you smart-cookie, you.

  1. We can learn a lot about ourselves through conflict. Dealing with conflict is essential to our growth and can truly deepen our relationships with others.

    Yes, the truth is scary and yes, standing up for yourself can seem beyond hard, but I promise you’ll come out of this feeling 1,000x better than if you’d just bottled it up!

TRUST ME.

What do you think?

What other advice do you have for dealing with conflict?