In every place I’ve worked there has always been at least one person who I’ve clashed with. Conflict at work is really difficult, it can throw your whole world off-balance and un-hinge you. When I’ve had difficulty at work it has always clung to me and found its way home with me, like a bad smell! When you take it home with you, it impacts the relationships around you too, maybe you’re snappy with your partner, rude to a neighbour, distant to a friend or shoot dirty looks at your cat from across the room. Poor cat, copping the stink-eye from a seething, angry, wound-up you!
I’m not a confrontational person at all, I go out of my way to avoid it at ALL costs. But sometimes, no matter how hard you try, the conflict just finds you and keeps knocking at your door, louder and louder until you feel trapped and you can’t escape it.
Each time this has happened to me I’ve looked at the person or people causing these problems and placed the blame squarely on them and left it at that. “They must be dysfunctional, a completely heartless psychopath with nothing better to do than start drama or be mean and rude to the people around them. It’s the only explanation for it.” I’ve felt completely helpless and totally consumed by the horrible feeling of having to front up to work each day knowing that person is there. “What will today bring? How can I avoid them? What do I do? I’m trapped and I’m miserable!”
These feelings aren’t just related to work conflicts either, they also show up in the form of friends, partners, family and other people who pop into your life from time to time and bring with them some kind of adversity and difficulty.
Everyone who comes into our lives, whether they’re a really great friend or the world’s biggest douchelord, are there for a reason. It’s easy to embrace the good stuff, value a great friend and thank them for being there for you to teach you things and bring you happiness. It’s extremely difficult to do the same to anyone bringing conflict into your life. What is easy, in those situations, is to try to avoid the person or situation, duck and dive from it and skirt around it. Trust me, I’m the master problem dodger!
But if we hide from these problems and avoid them, we’re missing the reason they’re happening entirely. We’re skipping over something really important, something we’re supposed to learn and grow from, something that’s meant to help us expand into the person we are. It’s all part of our life journey and if we miss this conflict part, it’s just going to keep coming back, getting bigger and louder each time until we finally confront it and learn what we need to.
How do we do that? How does that work exactly? Do you walk up to the complete idiot at your work who blames you for everything that goes wrong, tap them on the shoulder and say, “Ummm excuse me, you complete tosser, but would I be able to trouble you for a moment of your time so you can step me through the life lesson you’re here to teach me? Shall we meet up in the small conference room at 2 pm? Great, cheers, thanks for that. P.S I hate you” Ahhhh no, guys, I wouldn’t recommend it. Your nemesis has their own crap going on, best leave them be.
It’s up to us to work this out on our own, after all, it is our lesson to learn. All we have to do is be willing to take the time to work through it and be open to receiving the answers we’re looking for.
Find some time when you’re calm and level-headed, go to a comfortable space and work through some of the stuff in your mind. I always find my thoughts organise themselves far better outside of my beehive mind, so I like to write things down. Take the human element out of it, get rid of the source/the person who is ticking you off and look at the facts of what’s happening. How do you feel? What’s causing you to feel this way? What has been said that has annoyed you? Why would that annoy you? What’s the deeper meaning here? What’s really going on with you at the moment, in your personal or professional life? Is this conflict highlighting an old issue? Dig deep and listen for the answers within yourself. You’re annoyed and upset for a reason… find out why.
Still yourself, allow everything that has happened to come to the surface. This doesn’t mean reliving arguments and getting drawn back into old memories or past events, it just means acknowledging what has occurred and looking for the meaning in it. For me, I had someone come into my life who was making things difficult for me and the lesson in it was learning to deal with conflict situations like a grown-up, finding the strength within myself and making work so unbearable it pushed me in the direction of my dreams.
Sometimes the feeling of directing anger toward someone can be a nice burn, it’s an emotion that fills you and reminds you you’re alive! But once you let it in, it’s hard to let go of it. When I’ve had someone visit my site and troll me, my first reaction used to be one of anger. “Who are you to come to my site and write mean things to me? You don’t even know me, playa!” The burn of that anger would stay in my heart for a long time, like a stain.
Instead of allowing those emotions to take over, try going in the opposite direction. Now when adversity comes into my life or a troll stops by to post a comment, I picture them in my mind as one of those 80’s troll dolls with the wild pink hair. I imagine them sitting under a troll bridge, tapping away at their computer and, in my mind and in my heart, I say, “Thank you.” Sometimes I even say it out loud. Why? To thank them for bringing this new lesson to my attention, without them I never would have learned it.
The first time you do this, it might feel incredibly bitter, disingenuous and hard to say, but keep at it and it will become second nature and you really will start to mean it. Now when I say ‘thank you’ to the difficult situation or person, to the conflict or the troll I also send them a little piece of light, love and good wishes.
If I choose which emotion I feel as a result of the conflict and then choose what I give back to the person, I’m in total control of the situation and I’m not losing any part of myself. Love doesn’t eat away at you like hatred does, if I give a little piece of light and love to the conflict, it immediately replenishes itself.
We each have our own boundaries and rules, things we’re willing to put up with and things we just won’t stand for. When we come into contact with other people, what we really want is for them to respect our boundaries totally and completely… which will make us very happy and make our lives very easy. The thing is, other people don’t really care for our boundaries because they have their own boundaries and their own agenda.
Instead of chasing our tails trying to make sure people stay within the area we’re comfortable with, we should accept there are many things that are out of our control. This includes horrid co-workers, mean friends, dogs that crap on your front lawn, trolls, conflict situations and shitty days. What we can control, is everything within ourselves.
Every time someone comes into my life or into contact with me and thinks they’re putting me down, detracting from my happiness or making me sad they’re completely mistaken. What they are doing is making me stronger, smarter, wiser and more experienced. They’re building me up, not tearing me down.
Find that place within you where you can centre yourself and tap into your stream of happiness, dreams, love and good energy. It’s within each of us, all you have to do is find yours. Let it define your sense of self-respect, independence, happiness and well-being…. do not let someone else define these things for you. We need to be strong within ourselves, but flexible enough to move with life and its many changes. We are each as strong as we choose to be.
If you’re having a tough time with unwanted conflict, just remember to look for the lesson, find out what all this means to you and why. Placing the blame on the other person or situation than running away and hiding won’t fix a thing. Thank the person for bringing this to your attention, send them light and love and remember that you are only in control of what is within you and that is, after all, the most valuable and important thing you need control of.
Phoebe Lee is a travel writer and award-winning blogger with a love for storytelling. Phoebe creates practical, fun and engaging written content designed to inspire and energise travel-lovers and dreamers. Follow her and Matt’s adventures at home and around the world, right here on Little Grey Box and through Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.