The trouble with most conversation that leads to conflict isn’t that it’s earth shattering or amazing, but that it’s banal and boring.
This is one of the many reason why there will always be more online content consumers than online content creators. It is hard to be interesting to others when you secretly are not that interested in yourself.
This is one of the many reasons why, in the context of conflicts, many participants seek to avoid any type of conversation that could trigger latent, unresolved conflicts; bringing to the surface old issues and never addressed concerns.
Participants, when asked later, will identify their conflict engagement style as being “avoiding” or “accommodating” of the other person, but it’s really a style that is based in the inability to engage in an interesting, high risk conversation. This inability, however, hobbles the potential in participants for learning new skills to manage, engage and resolve the inevitable arrival of the kind of exciting, conflict driven conversations that they seek desperately to avoid.
There are two things to recognize (other than just the banality of many conversations and the ability to avoid) that can help anybody craft a meaningful strategy for talking when the topic is high risk, but the participants are not:
Fear is at the root of avoidance, accommodation and even assertive tactics—At its root, fear of consequences, outcomes we can’t control, the situation, other people, the material facts of the conflict itself, “getting involved” and many other emotional situations, lead to the desire to pursue continuing the status quo. This fear is why a person at work who causes confrontations because they are addicted to the power rush they get from domination behavior, is “allowed” to continue the behavior, while people whisper behind their backs.
Boredom (and the desire for entertainment) is at the root of banality—The corollary to fear is boredom. Boredom happens when a person is surrounded by uninteresting conversations, uninteresting people, or uninteresting situations. The reason for the rise in conflict avoidance tactics as an interpersonal skill set among many individuals is based in the fact that many in-person social interactions are not exactly intellectually stimulating. And when and entertaining (or intellectually stimulating) alternative is offered people will take it. This is not exclusive to the now: there are many artistic representations of people ignoring each other while reading the paper, while crowded around the radio, or while watching the television.
There are arguments to be made for developing resilience, being polite, knowing enough to have a conversation, and being forgiving of people and situations. But when conflicts (particularly around issues that matter) arise, the default is to embrace the banal, continue to be boring, and hope it all blows over.
Such as it ever was…
-Peace Be With You All-
Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: firstname.lastname@example.org