Through working with people in consultation, I often see them feeling fearful of saying what they think.
A lot of people say they “hate conflict”.
This means they totally avoid any situation where there may be in conflict with another person.
They have a problem with someone and instead of speaking to them about it, they “stew” on it, tell others and generally avoid this person altogether. The problem is, the problem becomes worse.
For example, Ellen and Mary (fictitious names) work in the same business. It was common for Ellen to ask Mary to do a particular task and when Mary failed to, Ellen did the task herself without saying anything to Mary. Over time, Ellen became angry with Mary. Mary picked up Ellen wasn’t happy so she began avoiding her. This made Ellen even more angry so Mary avoided her more … and so it continued.
Rather than say something to Mary and address the problem, Ellen wanted to avoid the conflict. She did this by doing the work herself. The problem is, she became angry and tension between the two rose.
So, why do people like Ellen avoid it rather than speaking to the offending person?
Fear. They fear what the other person will think, say or do if they raise a point they are in conflict over. Result: they say nothing. They fear the reaction they will receive. A common statement is “I don’t want to create waves”. While in this state of “stewing” on the problem, they begin to distance themselves from the other person. The other person soon perceives there is a problem so begins to worry what they have done or what the problem is. They begin to distance themselves … and so the problem continues – as with Ellen and Mary.
In another example, Marg told her husband Ben to let her know if he had something on his mind.
One day Ben let Marg know what was troubling him and Marg verbally berated him. She angrily defended herself, which left Ben wondering why he had spoken to her.
The next time Ben wanted to say something, he kept quiet and stewed on it. Marg knew something was wrong and pushed Ben to tell her. Ben refused as he knew the consequences. This soon turned into a major problem where they were speaking of separating because “they couldn’t get on”.
If you have a gripe with someone, can you speak with them about it or do you keep it to yourself and “stew” on it?
In the example with Ellen and Mary, when we all sat down and Ellen outlined her problem, Mary had no idea she was creating such a big problem for Ellen. Once Mary was aware, she said to Ellen “If I’m not doing something I should be, please let me know”.
If you have a gripe with someone, let them know (in a nice way) what it is so they have the opportunity to fix it.
If you would like someone to be honest with you, reward them for their honesty. Listen to what they have to say (without interrupting and defending yourself). You may even reply with “Thank you for letting me know”.
Emotionally and verbally shooting them down will only lead to more problems.