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How To Deal With Conflict (A Choose-To-Your-Own-Adventure Guide)

 

Relationship problems come in a few different varieties. Here’s a choose-your-own-adventure style guide to solving a conflict in your life.

18 minute read

Hello there, friend. What’s that I hear? You’re pissed off at someone? Someone is pissed off at you? You have a fight in your life and you don’t know what to do? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Whether it’s with your mom, your aunt, your best friend Stan, or maybe even the mailman, I’ve got the solution to all your relationship problems!

Below is a “Choose Your Own Adventure” for resolving your conflict. Yes, my friend, your conflict is an adventure. A rage-infused shit-festering adventure full of four-letter words and smashed cell phone screens, I’m sure. But an adventure nonetheless.

Simply start with the first question below and navigate yourself to the end. By the end, you’ll know exactly what to do about your conflict.

If not, well then fuck you, buddy:

But even if there’s not a flaming dumpster fire of a relationship in your life right now, reading through each decision tree is still a worthwhile exercise in not being a terrible human being. I invite you to follow along at home. So, let’s get to it!

QUESTION #1: ARE YOU TRYING TO CHANGE THE OTHER PERSON AND/OR ARE THEY TRYING TO CHANGE YOU?

By “change the other person,” I mean are either of you trying to change the other person’s personality, habits, and/or values? You want them to be more social or less social, or more jealous or less jealous, or from the north instead of the south or from the south instead of the north. You want to change their character, their culture, their way of life.

  • If you are trying to change them, go to ENDING #1A
  • If they are trying to change you, go to ENDING #1B
  • If neither of you are trying to change the other person, go to QUESTION #2

ENDING #1A: YOU ARE TRYING TO CHANGE THE OTHER PERSON

In two words: stop it. It’s a losing battle. You can’t change people. The most you can do is set an example in hopes that they change themselves. This is the fundamental principle of having good boundaries. And any relationship that doesn’t have good boundaries will inevitably turn to shit.

But let’s say this person does eventually decide to change themselves. The change will be so gradual and incremental that you will hardly be satisfied by it. So, don’t get your hopes up. And definitely don’t wait around for it to happen.

It’s simple: you either appreciate and/or love the person as they are, or you don’t. That’s your choice. I know it’s painful. But it’s the only way to keep things healthy.

ENDING #1B: THEY ARE TRYING TO CHANGE YOU

If someone in your life is trying to change you–that is, they are punishing you emotionally for not conforming to their desires or values–then you are stuck in a lose/lose situation.

If you do try and change for them, you’re essentially betraying your own values and self-worth to make someone else happy. This can work in minor cases, but in the long-run, it’s a self-destructive strategy. You are essentially making them happy by making yourself miserable. Except no one wants to be with a miserable person, so you will eventually make them miserable as well.

The other option is to tell them to fuck off. Which is what I wholeheartedly recommend.

Look, here’s my “How to Create Strong Boundaries for Idiots” Guide—but if you need more details, here:

  • Step One: Tell them that this is who you are and they can take it or leave it.
  • Step Two: If they don’t accept it and keep trying to change you, you leave the relationship.

Both steps are equally important. You must decide on what you are willing to tolerate and not willing to tolerate in your relationship. If you can’t do that, then you are simply at a loss of control and will always feel reactive to the other person. This is bad.

Once you have decided what you will and will not tolerate, you express this clearly. “Hey, I really like watching Teletubbies and if you can’t handle that, then this isn’t going to work!” OK, a more serious example, “Hey, my religion is really important to me and if you can’t respect that then this isn’t going to work.”

The second step is then probably the hardest. Because you have to stand by your statement. If they violate your boundary, there have to be consequences. A lot of people are good at expressing the boundary but they don’t stick by it. As a result, the people around them learn to ignore what they say.

Other people are good at the second step but bad at the first: they are great at cutting people off but bad at expressing why. If you don’t express what boundary has been crossed, then you don’t give other people the chance to ever adjust how they treat you. Therefore, you need to state your boundary and act upon it.

OPTIONAL GREY BOX FOR PEOPLE WHO HAVE NO IDEA “HOW” TO END A RELATIONSHIP

There’s a term I made up called “VCR Questions,” which is basically any question where people ask how to do something that feels difficult but is actually incredibly simple.

You can read a full explanation of VCR questions in this article, but a simple example is something like, “How do I quit my job?”

Well, it’s simple, you go to your boss and tell him/her you want to leave. Done.

But the twist is that it’s not easy. It’s emotionally painful and causes lots of anxiety. So people avoid it. And part of that avoiding it is convincing themselves that it’s far more difficult and complicated than it actually is.

Enter the perennial “How do I break up with him/her?” VCR question. It’s probably the most common VCR question I get. Someone wants to end a relationship, but it feels difficult, so they convince themselves that they don’t know how to do it, even though it’s very simple.

Well, here’s a painfully obvious, blow-by-blow method for ending a relationship with somebody. This grey box assumes that you’ve already set a boundary and the person in question has violated it. It also assumes you’ve decided to end it but are anxious about doing so. Here you go:

Step 1: Tell the person why this relationship isn’t working for you: they violated your boundary, you just aren’t feeling it anymore, you have different life paths, whatever. Preferably, do this in person. But if doing it in person complicates things greatly, or you are in any way concerned for your safety, then do it over the phone, email, or text (in that order).

MM.NET

HOW TO DEAL WITH CONFLICT (A CHOOSE-YOUR-OWN-ADVENTURE GUIDE)

Relationship problems come in a few different varieties. Here’s a choose-your-own-adventure style guide to solving a conflict in your life.

18 minute read

Hello there, friend. What’s that I hear? You’re pissed off at someone? Someone is pissed off at you? You have a fight in your life and you don’t know what to do? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Whether it’s with your mom, your aunt, your best friend Stan, or maybe even the mailman, I’ve got the solution to all your relationship problems!

Below is a “Choose Your Own Adventure” for resolving your conflict. Yes, my friend, your conflict is an adventure. A rage-infused shit-festering adventure full of four-letter words and smashed cell phone screens, I’m sure. But an adventure nonetheless.

Simply start with the first question below and navigate yourself to the end. By the end, you’ll know exactly what to do about your conflict.

If not, well then fuck you, buddy:

How I usually handle conflict.

But even if there’s not a flaming dumpster fire of a relationship in your life right now, reading through each decision tree is still a worthwhile exercise in not being a terrible human being. I invite you to follow along at home. So, let’s get to it!

QUESTION #1: ARE YOU TRYING TO CHANGE THE OTHER PERSON AND/OR ARE THEY TRYING TO CHANGE YOU?

By “change the other person,” I mean are either of you trying to change the other person’s personality, habits, and/or values? You want them to be more social or less social, or more jealous or less jealous, or from the north instead of the south or from the south instead of the north. You want to change their character, their culture, their way of life.

  • If you are trying to change them, go to ENDING #1A
  • If they are trying to change you, go to ENDING #1B
  • If neither of you are trying to change the other person, go to QUESTION #2

ENDING #1A: YOU ARE TRYING TO CHANGE THE OTHER PERSON

In two words: stop it. It’s a losing battle. You can’t change people. The most you can do is set an example in hopes that they change themselves. This is the fundamental principle of having good boundaries. And any relationship that doesn’t have good boundaries will inevitably turn to shit.

But let’s say this person does eventually decide to change themselves. The change will be so gradual and incremental that you will hardly be satisfied by it. So, don’t get your hopes up. And definitely don’t wait around for it to happen.

It’s simple: you either appreciate and/or love the person as they are, or you don’t. That’s your choice. I know it’s painful. But it’s the only way to keep things healthy.

ENDING #1B: THEY ARE TRYING TO CHANGE YOU

If someone in your life is trying to change you–that is, they are punishing you emotionally for not conforming to their desires or values–then you are stuck in a lose/lose situation.

If you do try and change for them, you’re essentially betraying your own values and self-worth to make someone else happy. This can work in minor cases, but in the long-run, it’s a self-destructive strategy. You are essentially making them happy by making yourself miserable. Except no one wants to be with a miserable person, so you will eventually make them miserable as well.

The other option is to tell them to fuck off. Which is what I wholeheartedly recommend.

Look, here’s my “How to Create Strong Boundaries for Idiots” Guide—but if you need more details, here:

  • Step One: Tell them that this is who you are and they can take it or leave it.
  • Step Two: If they don’t accept it and keep trying to change you, you leave the relationship.

Both steps are equally important. You must decide on what you are willing to tolerate and not willing to tolerate in your relationship. If you can’t do that, then you are simply at a loss of control and will always feel reactive to the other person. This is bad.

Once you have decided what you will and will not tolerate, you express this clearly. “Hey, I really like watching Teletubbies and if you can’t handle that, then this isn’t going to work!” OK, a more serious example, “Hey, my religion is really important to me and if you can’t respect that then this isn’t going to work.”

The second step is then probably the hardest. Because you have to stand by your statement. If they violate your boundary, there have to be consequences. A lot of people are good at expressing the boundary but they don’t stick by it. As a result, the people around them learn to ignore what they say.

Other people are good at the second step but bad at the first: they are great at cutting people off but bad at expressing why. If you don’t express what boundary has been crossed, then you don’t give other people the chance to ever adjust how they treat you. Therefore, you need to state your boundary and act upon it.

OPTIONAL GREY BOX FOR PEOPLE WHO HAVE NO IDEA “HOW” TO END A RELATIONSHIP

There’s a term I made up called “VCR Questions,” which is basically any question where people ask how to do something that feels difficult but is actually incredibly simple.

You can read a full explanation of VCR questions in this article, but a simple example is something like, “How do I quit my job?”

Well, it’s simple, you go to your boss and tell him/her you want to leave. Done.

But the twist is that it’s not easy. It’s emotionally painful and causes lots of anxiety. So people avoid it. And part of that avoiding it is convincing themselves that it’s far more difficult and complicated than it actually is.

Enter the perennial “How do I break up with him/her?” VCR question. It’s probably the most common VCR question I get. Someone wants to end a relationship, but it feels difficult, so they convince themselves that they don’t know how to do it, even though it’s very simple.

Well, here’s a painfully obvious, blow-by-blow method for ending a relationship with somebody. This grey box assumes that you’ve already set a boundary and the person in question has violated it. It also assumes you’ve decided to end it but are anxious about doing so. Here you go:

Step 1: Tell the person why this relationship isn’t working for you: they violated your boundary, you just aren’t feeling it anymore, you have different life paths, whatever. Preferably, do this in person. But if doing it in person complicates things greatly, or you are in any way concerned for your safety, then do it over the phone, email, or text (in that order).

Step 2: Tell them it’s over. “I can’t be friends with someone who doesn’t respect my X,” is always a good line to go with. Or “I can’t be in a relationship with someone who doesn’t respect me for Y.” Or, “I can’t be with someone who doesn’t make me feel Z.” Or, if it’s a family member, “I can’t have someone in my life who undercuts my self-respect by doing Z.” Something like that.

Step 3: This person will get upset. They will lash out. They may apologize. They may cry. Don’t be swayed by the drama. Remember the reason you’re here.

(The only exception to this is if the person apologizes and promises to change their behavior towards you AND they haven’t already apologized and promised this before. Note: Most people deserve a second chance. Few people deserve a third.)

Step 4: Don’t respond to texts, emails, invitations, etc. Remember, the relationship is over. Therefore, start acting like it’s over. Chances are that this person will try to make up for whatever they did wrong. If they’re a boundary violator, they won’t respect your declaration of the relationship ending. After all, they didn’t respect your boundaries IN the relationship, why would they respect them OUT of the relationship? You must stand firm.

Step 5: If the person begins to harass you, block them. You might feel guilty. But they had their chance, remember? There are over seven billion people in this world. There’s only one of you. Take care of you first.

Caveat: If the ex-communicated person is a family member or someone you work with, you will likely still see them at groups and large events. Be polite and respectful, but always stick by your boundary. In cases of family members, sometimes, after years have gone by, they will come around and change a little bit. If you feel comfortable, you can test restarting a relationship with them slowly. But always be on the lookout. And as the old saying goes: forgive but never forget.

QUESTION #2: ARE YOU TRYING TO PROVE YOUR WORTH TO THE OTHER PERSON?

This gets a bit deeper and more complicated and is definitely going to require some painful honesty.

What I mean by “prove yourself” is that you are trying to show this other person that you are better or more valuable as a person than they seem to think you are. Maybe it’s earning the approval of a father who never showed it to you. Maybe it’s proving to your wife that you’re responsible and respectable. Maybe it’s proving to your group of friends that you’re smart or cool.

Basically, if the motivating force of the conflict is, “Oh yeah? I’ll show you!” then you’re trying to prove something. And that’s not good.

 

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