Conflict is a natural and inevitable part of relationships. Disagreements are often a catalyst for growth, and fresh perspective. Dealing with conflict in productive ways can lead to greater connection, better understanding and improved productivity. Whether the conflict arises at work, home or among friends, there are two dangerous traps that many of us fall into. As you read on you may find that you have a tendency toward one or the other of these ends of this spectrum. For now I will call these folks at the extreme ends of the spectrum Steamrollers and Houdinis.
The first trap that many of us fall into when experiencing conflict is to respond to the other person or issue in an overly aggressive manner. Many people attempt to avoid conflict by steamrolling over the other person or people. Sometimes this is done for the steamroller to get his or her way. Sometimes this occurs because the steamroller is unwilling to think creatively to come up with solutions. Steamrollers also have a tendency to be overly sensitive to criticism. If someone feels that the only options are steamroll or be steamrolled he or she may prefer to be the one doing the rolling.
The other trap that many of us fall into is passively disregarding our wishes, desires or preferences. The trouble with this is that this response to conflict often results in bitterness, anger and resentment. These Houdinis may be so uncomfortable with conflict that they would rather disregard themselves and vanish than experience the discomfort and anxiety of conflict. Some Houdinis are afraid of hurting someone’s feelings or making someone else angry. Sometimes Houdinis are reluctant to share their views because they are afraid of being thought of as stupid or wrong.
Where do you fall in the spectrum? What would others say about you and your style of dealing with conflict? I invite you to consider with me what might happen if we could all move toward the center of the spectrum. What would happen if the steamrollers could become more open to criticism and willing to work cooperatively and creatively toward solutions? What would happen if the Houdinis, rather than vanishing in the midst of conflict, could become a bit more assertive in expressing their views? I don’t mean to oversimplify the intricacies and difficulties of conflict. But I can’t help but wonder if moving toward the center would be a beneficial starting point.
Do you know anyone who manages conflict well, someone able to reap the benefits of conflict without becoming a steamroller or a Houdini?
Picking a counselor can be tough for several reasons. The first reason is that many people who visit a counselor want to keep their experiences private. If someone has a great experience at a new restaurant in town they are likely to tell a friend or neighbor about the food, service and overall experience. If someone has their sink repaired by a trustworthy and affordable plumber most people would have no problem recommending that plumber to others. What makes counseling different is that even if someone has a great experience with a counselor, they may not want to broadcast to friends and family that they are having difficulty in their marriage, are struggling with depression or are feeling unsatisfied with their life. Occasionally the stigma of counseling may keep people from sharing that they are seeing a counselor. Of course some people are more than willing to share that they are seeing or have seen a counselor and are happy to provide an account of their experience. But for many others the sensitive nature of what is being discussed in counseling prevents them from making recommendations to others. It may be worth asking friends or family if they know of any good counselors. Bear in mind some people may inquire about why you are asking. It may be wise to ask people selectively.
The list of things to consider when trying to find the right counselor is seemingly endless. The counselor’s age, gender, specialty, location, fee, availability, religious beliefs, reputation and approach may all be important considerations. Thinking about what your top priorities are would be a great place to start. For example, perhaps a counselor specializes in what you are looking for help with but doesn’t have any availability for the next 6 months. Perhaps a counselor has an office near your home but charges more than you can afford. Perhaps a counselor has affordable rates and is close to your home but comes from an approach that would clash with your personality. Ideally you could find a counselor that meets all of your criteria, but if not, prioritizing which factors are most important to you can be helpful. Many counselors will offer a free consultation to help you decide if he or she would be the right fit to help you overcome the obstacles you face. Feel free to take advantage of this. Counselors should be willing to answer questions you have, to help you decide if a particular counselor would be a good fit. Ultimately there is no substitute for actually talking to the counselor and deciding for yourself. These are just suggestions. Don’t let fear of choosing the right counselor prevent you from getting the help you need.
I've had to say goodbye a lot recently. Some goodbyes have been personal, some have been professional. Some came through unexpected death, some as a result of new opportunities. Some goodbyes were accompanied by tears, some with laughter and fond memories. As painful, and at times awkward, as these goodbyes have been, I have also experienced a profound richness in honoring relationships that have come to an end.
Each goodbye has been unique just as each relationship is unique. For some, a discussion of good memories, advice and blessings are in order. For others, a nod and warm smile is sufficient and communicates just as much. Some goodbyes are accompanied by ceremonies. Some goodbyes are so subtle that only those saying goodbye realize they have occurred.
In reflecting on all of these goodbyes, I was hoping to gain some deeper awareness of what makes a goodbye special, but I came up empty. I have no deep wisdom to impart but what I have learned is this: as clumsy and uncomfortable as goodbyes can be, I am grateful for them. Saying goodbye has reminded me that a relationship is not defined by the goodbye but by everything that came before it. However you say goodbye, may you be reminded of, and be grateful for, the relationship that makes saying goodbye worthwhile. I think that is what makes a goodbye good.