I don’t like conflict, but I love holding a grudge. I easily fall into the pattern of noticing a loved one’s annoying or frustrating behaviour, telling myself I’m not really bothered, hoping it will go away, getting increasingly irritated, then bringing it up as ammunition during a discussion about something else.
Photo by Thomas Szynkiewicz
So when the Harvard Business Review explained how to suck it up and have a hard conversation when you’re conflict-averse, this hit home:
Don’t put it off. How often is your response to conflict something like, “I don’t want to talk about it” or “It’s not that big a deal” or “It’s not worth arguing about”? If you’re always promising yourself that you’ll “bring it up next time it happens,” well, now’s the time. Instead of putting off a conversation for some ideal future time, when it can be more easily dealt with, tackle it right away.
The first time I moved in with a girlfriend, we were very worried about disrupting each other’s morning routines. Instead of retreating and ignoring any potential conflicts, we addressed them politely and immediately. We were in the right frame of mind, noticing how the choices we made over those first few days would influence our next few years together. In fact, that’s true throughout all of life: Habits and behaviours develop that can lead to sharp conflicts if they aren’t addressed soon enough.
This doesn’t mean you should constantly nitpick. But as soon as you notice a repeating conflict, you can respectfully bring up how it makes you feel. If you’re telling yourself it isn’t that big of a problem, then you don’t need to treat it like one. The sooner you address the conflict, the easier the conversation.