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You Have a Right to Remain Silent – But Should You?

You Have a Right to Remain Silent

I have observed people choosing to remain silent when there is a conflict with another. Remaining silent when angered by another’s behavior or words has quickly become one of my pet peeves in others.

Why do some people stay quiet?

There are several reasons why people don’t voice their grievances. One reason is, you don’t want to hurt or anger the other person and fear destroying the relationship. Second, bringing up your discontentment can put you in a vulnerable position if the person were to flip the tables on you. Third, you feel nothing will change if you bring it up, so what is the point.

While to some degree these reasons depending on the situation are understandable. Remaining silent is a maneuver used by those who like to avoid conflict. Conflict avoidance doesn’t resolve the issue, and in many cases, it makes it worse.

Why is it important to speak up?

It is important to speak up for the same reason some choose to stay quiet- not to destroy the relationship. By not voicing your grievance you are allowing resentment and frustration to build. If another person persists in using a particular behavior that you dislike, you may choose to limit your time around that person. By speaking up, and voicing your frustration in a way that is constructive you could enhance the relationship and create a more open dialogue.

It is also important to speak up in situations where you feel hopeless about the outcome because we never know for sure that things won’t change. In those cases, we are basing our beliefs off of assumptions that it doesn’t matter so why bother.

How can you speak up effectively?

Prepare. If you don’t enjoy conflict, then a surefire method to feel more confident is to prepare beforehand. Write down exactly what you would like to say and practice it. When you prepare prior, you can edit and adjust anything that could make the other person defensive.

Use I feel statements. When you are addressing an issue, you have with someone else’s behavior or words describe how what they did or are doing makes you feel. For example, “Lennie, I felt hurt the other day when I overheard you talking to Lucy about me.” By sticking to “I Feel” statements, you are stating how their behavior affected you instead of attacking them personally, which leads me to my next point.

Don’t Blame or Name Call.  When a person feels they are under attack, they become defensive, and it makes resolving the conflict more difficult.

When you choose to remain silent, you allow your feelings and needs to go unaddressed. It is my belief that if you decide not to speak up when in conflict with another person then you give up your right to complain about it later.

 

Have a good week,

Abigail R. C. McManus

Guest Blogger

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The Battle with the In-Laws: When the Holidays Aren’t So Jolly

 

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The holidays, whether they are birthday celebrations, the 4th of July or religious events, are a tough time for many people in biologically related families, let alone adding in-laws and extended family members into the mix. For most of our holidays, my husband and I spend time with our families separately, and then, my husband comes back home to spend time with myself and my dad and brother. Why? The reason I do not go over to my in-laws’ home is due to ongoing conflicts between myself and his parents.  This dynamic is not ideal. As newlyweds, this is not the way it is supposed to be. My assumption after we got married is my husband, and I would spend time together creating happy memories, enjoying special traditions, and spending time with those we love and who love us. However, my husband is very close to his family and in the past, he has wanted to spend most or all of his holiday time with them. Our time apart caused many issues in our new marriage.  Recently, he has chosen to balance his time during holiday gatherings as he realized that this was hurting our relationship.

Another issue that places a hardship on our situation is the time it takes to travel to the in-laws home and the cost of traveling there. Although I have spent much time there while my husband and I were dating, I feel we have established our home and feel it is unfair to continue to be expected to make all the sacrifices…expenses, travel time, missed time with my family, and to top it off, to experience the stress of the ongoing conflict. It is to the point where I cannot just hold my tongue and pretend this is not a problem in our relationship. I cannot continue to avoid conflict or communicating my needs or how this makes me feel quite sad. When I avoid communicating my concerns and needs, it has only led to poor relationships and misunderstandings.

So, what do you do when you find yourself in this situation especially when you are not off on the right foot with your in-laws after marriage? Do you just suck it up and continue to pretend it doesn’t bother you? NO! For me, this only built anger, resentment, hurt feelings and escalating conflict distancing myself further from my in-laws and damaging my relationship with my husband. In thinking through and weighing various options, you have to be cognizant of everyone’s needs. What are they? Knowing this will greatly assist in how you can negotiate what might work moving forward. For example, I know my in-laws have eight children to consider. They would consider it a burden to leave their home just to visit us when they have other children to consider. My husband’s need is to be with his family and continue to honor the family’s special holiday traditions. And of course, if/when we do decide to have children, we will have much more than just their needs to consider for our situation. But it varies situationally, and so thus, there are many considerations regarding needs and concerns of the entire family.

Once you have identified the major needs of all involved, then consider these additional recommendations to reduce or manage conflict at holiday or special events between your spouse and in-laws.

  • Discuss expectations with your new spouse (before marriage if you can). Holiday family traditions and how to spend time with the two separate families is often a concern for many newlyweds. Will you be okay with how your spouse chooses to spend his/her time? If not, then you need to communicate an honest view of your expectations. 
  • Make a plan with your spouse to have a challenging conversation with the in-laws. You and your spouse need to decide if both of you or your spouse alone will communicate the concerns and your needs for a respectful engagement. This conversation needs to be done well before the holidays or special event.
  • Create a backup plan with clear boundaries. You can do all of the planning ahead of time, but what if this doesn’t work? You can’t change anyone. They very well might continue to criticize, pass judgment, and make hurtful or embarrassing remarks. You have to decide what are the boundaries, and how will you respond when they do. For me, I might say “I can no longer be a part of this conversation.” and then, walk away. Later, convey in a respectful manner that the remarks hurt you. For example, “I had to walk away because I felt hurt and embarrassed.
  • Ask your spouse what role he/she will maintain during conflicts with his/her family towards you. Will they be a mediator, an avoider, a fighter, or a peace-keeper? This role is important to determine as you do not want to pursue an uphill battle alone. You also want to know how you should approach the conflict since this is not your family of origin, and you may be unfamiliar with their communication style.

Try to enjoy the holidays as best as you can while showing your in-laws that both sets of feelings do matter. For tips on how to manage conflict like this without avoiding it all together, listen to the Texas Conflict Coach® ‘s radio program episode Repairing the Damage of Conflict Avoidance with Pattie Porter and Stephen Kotev!

 

Have a Great Day!

Ann Margaret Zelenka

Graduate Student Intern

University of Baltimore

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Repairing the Hidden Damage of Conflict Avoidance

 

Katrina Burrus, Pattie PorterStephen - 1CONFLICT…either you hate it and avoid it at all costs, or you thrive on it by pushing to get your point across to the detriment of others.  How we recognize potential conflict or respond to ongoing conflict is a choice. It is a learned skill that challenges your thinking, taps into your emotions, and requires you to make strategic behavioral choices. These choices help build courage, confidence and competence to handle difficult, tension-filled situations.

What is conflict avoidance, and how can it create unintended damage to relationships and escalate situations? More often than not, it is used as a default defense mechanism which often leads to a much bigger problem. You will learn behavioral cues and underlying motivating factors that drive us to react in damaging ways. More importantly, you can make different choices and learn strategies to help you take courageous steps to address conflict confidently.

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Confront or Not to Confront, that is the Question! An Analysis of When to Avoid Conflict

conflict-405744_1280I ran into a dilemma this week with a friend; I will call her Layla. I found out Layla told another friend of mine, will call him David, that I said something when I didn’t. The dilemma arose when I told my husband about the incident because I, being a non-avoider, wanted to confront her, while my husband, an avoider, thought I should let it go. My husband and I then began our on-going debate about whether avoidance is a good or bad thing in conflict.

I know from my conflict resolution education and research that the avoidance as a conflict approach is applicable in certain situations. Dale Eilerman contributor to Mediate.com cites several examples of when avoidance is okay, such as when the conflict is minor and bringing it up could affect the relationship negatively, when you want to give yourself time and space to think about a situation, or when you need to reduce angry emotions.

I have always struggled with being conflict avoidant because my default setting is to confront the situation head-on. It is challenging to ignore my feelings and let things go. My solution for most conflict is to address it … now! I have always believed that if conflict is allowed to linger, it can cause detrimental effects. So when addressing my concern to my husband, he raised a good question. If I addressed the conflict, what would it solve?

My friend, David, was not upset with me even though he might have misinterpreted what Layla told him. David also has a reputation for misunderstanding other’s information. If I confronted Layla about David’s retelling of the story, she could get upset with David for saying something to me. Finally, there was a chance that if I confronted Layla, another conflict avoider, whether she said it or not she would deny the conversation and not want to discuss it with me.

I countered my husband’s question with what could happen if I didn’t address the conflict. I felt hurt and angered by the communication. I felt my reputation with David was compromised and I needed to understand the what and why of Layla’s conversation. Did she lie? What motivated her to say that to David? If I didn’t confront Layla, those feelings would not be addressed and I could build resentment towards her.

Ultimately, I made the decision not to confront. I did so because Layla had never done anything like this before and I felt that if I confronted her it could create more conflict, not just between her and I, but she and David. So what do I do about my feelings? When you don’t acknowledge your emotions and they go unresolved resentment slowly simmers and builds. It took me a long time to learn but I could let go of my anger. I needed to recognize the anger and the motivation to confront Layla. I wanted to clear my reputation and I wanted to protect relationships too. I really had to analyze for myself and my friendships what action to take: confront or not to confront.

If you find yourself in a conflict and can’t decide whether to avoid or confront ask yourself these questions:

  1. What would get solved by addressing this conflict?
  2. What further problems could result if you addressed this conflict?
  3. What would be the advantages if you chose to avoid?
  4. If I don’t acknowledge negative feelings towards another person will it build resentment or further distance your relationship?

Conflict avoidance is a strategy and a choice to deescalate a situation or minimize negative emotions. Consistently choosing to avoid conflict because of the discomfort of addressing emotions can lead to resentment; anger and retaliation. Analyzing whether to confront or avoid is no easy task. It takes forethought to decide how it will impact relationships or outcomes. Which will you choose?

 

Abigail R. C. McManus M. S Negotiation and Conflict Management

Apprentice

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Beyond Fight or Flight – Making Different Choices to How We Approach Conflict

You’ve heard it before…instinctively, when anyone feels threatened our brain kicks into gear with a fight or flight response. We either stand up and fight to protect ourselves, or we run away from the threat. It is biologically part of who we are as humans. There are other choices we can make when we feel threatened in a confrontation. Choices and different behavioral approaches to dealing with conflict more effectively and constructively. In this show segment, Zena Zumeta and I will discuss the 5 primary approaches to help you manage conflict more effectively going beyond just fight or flight responses.

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