What follows is not a prescription for finding your way into conflict. Instead, it’s a list of things you may now knowingly recognize as causing conflict where it isn’t necessary—and when it doesn’t serve you. Think of these as things to avoid, and this post as a strong warning.
Personal Attack: Provocation. Verbal assault. Perhaps one of the best ways to start a fight is to personally attack another person. Making a personal attack on someone is almost an absolute guarantee of having someone respond in kind. Even if you’re frustrated, and even if the other person has done something you believe to be wrong, a personal attack does nothing to help the situation. It can only make things worse.
Ignore Them: Another way to start a fight is to ignore someone. The fact that you are ignoring them can have the effect of causing them to try harder to get your attention. One of the ways to ensure that you get someone’s attention is to engage in conflict by saying something so rude that it commands a response.
Challenge Their Significance: Disrespect them. Belittle them. There aren’t too many things that will cause a response like challenging another human being’s significance. All you need to do to manufacture conflict is to disrespect them as a human being. The more disrespect you offer, the more certain and more aggressive the response. It’s also relatively easy to get this response without meaning to, so be careful.
Public Humiliation: Human beings will do all kinds of things to avoid being humiliated-including humiliating themselves. One of the responses to being publicly humiliated is to defend your dignity by attacking the person who humiliated you. It’s possible for an individual who humiliates themselves to attack another person to save face. If this seems juvenile to you, it is, but it is not limited to the young. No one wants the tribe to have a laugh at their expense or think less of them.
Assume Bad Intentions: This one ties very closely to a personal attack because it’s not all that different. One of the ways that you can cause someone to feel that they must defend themselves is to accuse them of having bad intentions. There are a lot of people who believe things you don’t believe. There a lot of people who do things you don’t believe they should do. But it’s a mistake to believe that they have bad intentions and doing so can cause conflict. This is what occurs in every political argument you see on Facebook.
Be Argumentative: It is impossible to argue with yourself. To argue, you need someone to assist you by participating in the argument. If you don’t want to fight, and you don’t want to argue, one way is to extract yourself from the conflict by removing yourself from the situation. To do that, all you have to do is stop, or better still, never start. Just say, “We’ll have to agree to disagree, but I respect your view on this.”
Threaten: “If you don’t… I will . . . The word “if” is problematic. The “I will” that follows is even more troublesome. You are offering a threat. And when people feel they are threatened, they generally believe they must defend themselves. There is rarely ever a reason to offer a threat. If you are going to do something, you’re better off doing it than threatening it. The threat gives rise to conflict.
Offer Ultimatums: The biggest problem with ultimatums is that someone can say “I accept your offer.” So, if you say something that sounds like the “if” statement above, you may find that a person accepts your offer. But you may also find that they decide to engage in conflict to make their point. Ultimatums, if they’re ever offered, should be made as a method of last resort.
Conflict comes with being a human. Sometimes, it is necessary. But there is no reason to manufacture conflict where it serves no one and produces no great outcome.
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