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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

conflict

Some people thrive on it, and some people live for it, but then there are others who can live without it, and those who can take it or leave it. Then there are those of us who will actively avoid it. I'm one who will actively avoid it.

We all know "that couple," the ones who snipe at each other every chance they get, poking and prodding trying to provoke a fight or at least an argument. I guess it's the only way that they understand to get into each other. They think they are being honest, or at least open. I think it's a way to stay closed off, if you are always on the defensive ( or the offensive too) you don't have to open up and actually talk. Some people call it "passion", but I just don't buy it, how can a person be happy when they are constantly in a state of looking for a way to make someone mad or a way to defend themselves. I have seen many of these couples break up over the years. Some last longer than others, but they all end when one or the other gets tired of fighting.

There are the individuals who are always spoiling for a fight, whether it's a war of words or actual fisticuffs doesn't matter to them, they are just looking to try and best someone, these are bullies. They have to be louder, and tougher and they feel the need to bend everyone to their will. They will argue over a noise that somebody's chair makes, or the daily weather report. These people will be ready to throw punches over the smallest perceived slight, from a look to an accidental sniff. Never turn your back on a true bully, they have no sense of shame and will happily use any means necessary to cause you pain if they think that you have done them wrong in any way. Some people say they are the "alpha" types, I just think they are attention seeking jerks.

Some people will stand up for themselves or their friends and loved ones, but otherwise they are peaceable and easy going people. These are people who will have discussions about things when they disagree with someone, and they will remain calm for the most part. If somebody pushes them, they will push back, they will never escalate, but will always meet with at least equal aggression. Sometimes they win, and sometimes they lose. They don't live and die by the honor of besting someone in everything they do, and they learn from their mistakes and try to get along with people. These are people that make great friends and neighbors, they are great to have in the family and they are often good peace makers and "go-to guys" because they get the job done and generally avoid making enemies while doing it.

Then there are people like me. We go to great lengths to avoid conflict, arguments make us queasy, and just the thought of raised voices or disagreeing with someone can cause us stress. We are calm and agreeable and easy to talk to. We will smile and nod when you tell us the craziest things. You think that you can't surprise us because we remain so calm outwardly, but inside we may be screaming. Don't believe for one minute that we can't stand up for ourselves, because that's just not true, we can, and many of us have, but we wait for something really big, or until someone pushes just the right button one too many times. Sadly this is quite dangerous, because whomever gets the bull will be getting the bull that has been building up. It is the risk we run, sometimes we just lose our minds, but generally we have a great big blow up, and things get said and broken and sometimes there is violence.

What many people don't realize is that those of us who avoid conflict have some pretty good reasons. I can't speak for anyone but myself, but my reasons are pretty simple, the main one is that I know that I have a serious temper. I'm not a hair trigger by any means, but I do know that when I get pissed in a serious way that it is not safe for me to be around people. I never want to cause bodily harm to anybody, I may say I do, but in truth it is probably the last thing that I would ever actually want to do. I have spent many years learning how to control my temper and to stay out of trouble, but there are people in this world who will think this means that they can push me around, and in some cases they can. Only because I let them.

Another reason that I try to avoid conflict is because I used to see it in my own home when I was a kid. I watched my mom and dad fight. Plenty of arguments, and sometimes big, old, knock-down, drag-out fights. My dad was a great provider, but he was also a bully in the house. It was his way or the highway, and I knew it. Whenever I tried to stand up for myself I was beat down by the old man. A smart answer generally meant a fat lip or at least sore spot on the cheekbone for a couple days. I have flown through doors, and out of rooms. I have had bruises from on end of me to another and I am sure that on more than one occasion my scalp came off of my skull while I was being dragged around by my hair being shown the work I didn't do. I can spot anger in a person in a millisecond, and it always flips my stomach. Past is past, but it still affects me and my behavior. I try everyday to be the exact opposite of how I was raised. I never say never, but I truly prefer to calmly resolve problems. The second that a voice is raised in my direction, I go into defensive mode, and I scare myself. So yeah, you can often push me around, but please count yourself lucky that you aren't the one to throw the straw that breaks the camel's back.

There is some serious positivity that has come from this, I am polite to everybody that I meet, no matter how big an asshole they are. No matter how much I dislike you, I can be friendly and kind to you. I may be a little passive-aggressive on occasion, but in general I am polite and well behaved in public. Sadly this gives me plenty of people who insist on talking to me when I would just as soon they would find a new friend, but the positive side is that I can get things from people that give up nothing to anyone. I don't force my way up hierarchies, because I don't like to fight over crap, and I refuse to compete for attention. I do my job as best I can, and generally I do it quite well. I am a professional sidekick, because I don't want to be aggressive enough to get the top spot even though I probably deserve it.

If I can live a peaceful life, I will be happy, but occasionally I know that I will have to stand up for myself or for those close to me. I chose my battles very carefully. I also approach them with trepidation, but when I have to, I can fight with the best of them. I have been a bouncer, and a security guard. I can hold my own in a fight, I just prefer not to have to.

Too many people choose conflict, and not enough are willing to try a calmer way. It's too bad, because life is so much more pleasant when there is more calmness and less conflict.

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