Have you ever noticed that some people create conflict or drama wherever they go? Sort of like the Peanuts character Pigpen who has a cloud of dirt/dust surrounding him. There are those people who can trigger emotions in just about anyone and seem to enjoy the reaction they get from others. What is that all about? Are people looking to create conflict to deflect from a flaw or insecurity in themselves? Or possibly this stirring of conflict is a way to manipulate and control others. Remember the expression, “negative attention is better than no attention.” Some may have learned as children that conflict triggered a reaction from mom or dad, and that seemed preferable to silence.
Some of us react to this drama like Charlie Brown did with Lucy and the football. We take the bait and try to fix the problem, defend our position, and/or believe that things will be different this time. The reality is that we can’t change others’ feelings, thoughts, or actions. Even though we know this intellectually, we still get very frustrated when the outcome remains the same. Our reaction can inadvertently fuel the fire and enables the instigator to justify their actions. Clearly, a different approach is needed.
For starters, we can move from a reaction to a response, which means removing the negative emotions. Instead of striking back when feeling attacked, try sharing the emotional impact of their statement without defending your position. If this seems irrational, correcting them at the time and expecting a positive outcome may be just as irrational. Waiting until a later point in time to respond or writing your concerns may be more effective. Another way of taking the wind out of the sails would be to avoid engaging at all when the intensity level is high and accusations are flying. Acknowledging their negative emotions without focusing on right versus wrong can also diffuse the conflict. Lastly, look to connect at times when the volatility level is low and the emotions are calm. Connection occurs through conversation; keep it constructive and positive.