As you may know, I love people with an energy matched only by Labrador Retrievers. I consider myself a people person, and unfortunately also a people-pleaser who can’t stand being in conflict with others. That being said, there’s definitely been no shortage of drama in my life. Breakups, friend groups imploding, petty fights, girls that don’t enjoy having a shared history with guys, growing apart from people, etc., I’ve experienced it, often more than once. After being in a small K-8 school, transitioning to a huge high school, deciding to go to a small, “fishbowl-like” liberal arts college, and becoming an RA swept up in a whirlwind of situations and roommate mediations, I feel like I’ve pretty much seen it all.
Recently, I had a week where it felt like I was doing everything wrong. There seemed to be conflict in every aspect of my life. Besides some bickering here and there, things had been relatively drama-free for me for a few months, so having to deal with confrontations and sorting things out for the first time in awhile made me reflect on how I’ve improved with handling things and what I still need to work on. That inspired this blog post, where below I’ve included some things I’ve learned about dealing with conflict…
For the love of God, don’t ruminate.
Maybe it’s my OCD or deeply-rooted need for people to like me, but my problems with others used to consume me. I’d go over what happened over and over and post weird cryptic finsta posts that did nothing at best and at worst complicated problems even more. I felt the need to analyze and talk about my issues with everyone I encountered to get validation that I was in the right, and I exhausted some of my friends’ emotional resources. My head was so deep in my problems that I couldn’t see that my reaction to them was often just as damaging as the problems themselves.
Eventually, I realized the way I coped was counterproductive and self-destructive. I’ve learned that taking some time to rant with a few trusted people and exploring my feelings FIRST, then picking myself up and doing whatever I need to to move on is the best way to avoid ruminating. I heard Beyonce only gives herself 24 hours to be upset about something before she moves on, and I’m definitely trying to be like that. This is something I still struggle with and I’m still getting rid of grudges I’ve harbored for legit years, but I’ve come a long way.
After a falling out with someone, don’t focus on how to be right, better than them, avenged, etc. Your focus should be on being healthy.
Whenever I used to face conflict, I felt the need to prove I was right or that I was better than the person I wasn’t getting along with. I felt like people had to be “on my side.” As I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve realized how unnecessary that thought process is. After a falling out or poorly-resolved conflict, your focus should be on yourself, rather than the person you fought with. This requires a delicate balance of honoring your feelings and the loss you experienced while also finding healthy ways to cope and move on. Instead of talking badly about someone, becoming competitive with them or involving people that have nothing to do with the problem, I’m trying to focus on letting out my feelings through journaling, meditating, exercising and talking it out with a loved one, and then not engaging with the person in any way, taking the high road, and focusing on making sure that I take good care of myself while I heal.
Redefine what closure means to you.
It’s easy to feel like the only way to get over someone hurting us is to have that perfect wrap up conversation. You know, the one where you say everything on your mind and they apologize and explain why they acted the way they did? In reality, having things work out that way is rare, especially immediately after a falling out. It’s super risky to put your ability to move on in the hands of someone you have no control over. They could ignore you or only see their side of things, and even if you were able to talk things out and get that apology, it’s rarely as satisfying as the one you imagined. The best thing to do is focus only on things in your power. You can’t make someone understand you or regret how they treated you, but you can see a counselor, focus on improving yourself, start a new hobby, prioritize other relationships and find forgiveness for that person. Don’t ask yourself what the other person needs to do for you to feel better, try to figure out what you can do to make yourself feel better.
I also think the universe recognizes when you take care of yourself, because the times I’ve experienced people apologizing or clearing the air with me almost always happened long after I healed and moved on from the situation.
As Demi from The Bachelor taught me…
At a small school like mine, it’s common for negative things you say about others to get back to them. I remember being paranoid about talking badly about anyone, but one night an episode of The Bachelor changed everything. It was the episode where Demi called Courtney “the cancer of the house” and completely owned it when confronted. I don’t believe in being mean for no reason, but I realized if I think someone is rude, I don’t like them, or I think something they did was wrong, I can verbalize that as long as I don’t mind it getting back to them and I can stand by what I said. On one hand, this has made me more aware of what I put out into the world, but it’s also made me more confident with having opinions about others and calling BS out instead of trying to be a people pleaser. Like the other topics I’ve mentioned, I still slip up and say things I’d probably rather people didn’t hear, but this mindset has made me more genuine and deliberate in how I speak about others.
The right people will want to work it out, the other ones don’t matter.
I have a distinct conflict style. I love sending 5 paragraph MLA text messages carefully detailing all of my feelings and defending my side of things. I’ve learned that some people are the same way, while other people tend to write barely anything or somehow even more than I do. I’ve learned the best thing to do is to say how you feel, your point of view and what you want. Then you have to step back and get into a mindset where you feel content knowing you did your part. After making an initial confrontation or explanation, you have to leave how the conflict moves forward up to the other person. It doesn’t matter if someone communicates or handles things in a different style than you, what matters is if they make the effort to understand you and want to fix things. If they do, you can continue to find a way to meet in the middle. If they don’t say anything, lash out or otherwise make it clear they don’t want to fix things, it’s not worth any more effort, messages or losing sleep. The people that matter and that you should continue trying to work things out with are the ones that respond, follow up and show that they care.
Recognize when you’re toxic/in the wrong and learn from it, but also be kind and forgiving with yourself.
I’ve already mentioned this about 50 times, but I’m still a work in progress in all of these areas. I’m still trying to abstain from pettiness, not let conflicts take over my life and learning to communicate with people in a way that doesn’t overwhelm them and put them on their defensive. The best way to do this is by gaining self-awareness, which can be developed by looking at situations through other people’s perspectives, accepting constructive criticism from loved ones, and asking the people you’re sorting conflicts out with what you could do to prevent problems in the future. Sometimes all it takes is time to gain perspective about things you could have done better. Either way, as you gain more self-awareness, remind yourself that you’re still learning and don’t beat yourself up or drown in embarrassment or guilt. You can feel better knowing the next time you’re facing some drama you’ll be equipped with more wisdom to handle it better. Also, in any conflict, acknowledge and apologize about what you did wrong!!!!!!! Hold yourself accountable!!!!!!!!!! People respect that!
That concludes what I have learned and if you read this whole thing you’re AMAZING. If you got through the whole post (and are reading this), feel free to comment with your best advice on handling conflicts or, if you don’t want to get that deep, comment what you’re most looking forward to this summer! I love you all!