Today I re-discovered how much I HATE conflict! Oh, it's not the being involved myself in a conflict that bothers me, although, I sure as hell don't like that either. No, it's the being on the outside of a conflict and watching people I care about fighting with each other that I hate! I especially don't like it when I either don't get what the argument is about in the first place, or, I can see that both sides have equal validity. It's in my nature to solve problems or "fix" things and when I can't "fix" the conflict between friends I feel frustrated, angry and helpless and I hate that!
Usually, like today, I jump in the middle, make some jokes and try to take "control" of the situation because I want more than anything for it to stop. Sometimes that works. More often than not though, the reaction is what happened today. Neither party is all too thrilled that I decided to jump in the middle of their "battle" and then they are aggravated with me as well as each other! Instead of making it better, which is all I want to do, I just make it worse.
Recently, I took a project management class where we learned about communication styles. In that class, we learned that men tend to blame others during a conflict whereas women tend to take the blame on themselves. It's a weird, but true, gender-based reaction to conflict and one in which, I admit, I fit the stereotype. I would have preferred they both be angry at me for days rather than with each other for a couple hours.
In that class, we also took a personality test, a version of the Myers Briggs, where I discovered that for my personality type INFP (sometimes I score as ENTP) it's common to have two ways of dealing with conflict. One, in which I'm a primary participant and the other, a conflict I'm around, but not directly involved as a participant.
When I'm a primary person in the conflict, I tend to withdraw, shut down and avoid the other person for as long as possible. However, the way I deal with conflict involving others is to be assertive, firm and mediate the dispute. I'm never scared when I'm on the outside of a conflict, but I often am when I'm directly involved. The truth is, I like being involved in conflict resolution processes and because it's easy for me to see various "sides" of an argument without making judgements about the people, I'm often quite sucessful at it.
It's in the middle of the battle, like today, where I'm sitting by, helplessly watching my friends inflict pain on each other with their words, that it's tough.
Having everyone else in the group commenting on the "battle" makes me even more uncomfortable. So, I move into what I call my "Xena, Warrior Princess mode" where I quickly clear the room by taking control of the conversation and forcing everyone who remains to only discuss "safe" topics. It's not a good way to win a popularity contest by any means, but it does keep the argument from spreading,even if it does mean I sometimes become the new target of the group's sniping. It's probably not too healthy, but hey, it works. It keeps my friends from being hurt further by some late comer's unsolicted and unhelpful opinion. Besides, I'm getting quite used to the idea that I'm not going to be popular all the time.
The way I look at it, the group should just let the people involved have the space and grace they need to work out things between themselves. There's no need for any one to provide a "post fight wrap up" for crying out loud. In those moments, I feel like a traffic cop..." We all saw what happened. Now just move on and clear the area folks...that's it, go back to what you were doing...move along..." All the while I'm thinking "how unfreaking believable! I can not believe that just happened. Did you see that?" I just keep it to myself though. After all, it's my "job" to keep the group moving along, so I just start being funny or find some other topic to distract them for a while.
I want to protect the hearts of the people I love and I can't always do that. Even though I can often clearly see where the thing went pear shaped, I'm powerless to change it. That goes against my natural tendency to solve problems. Today, I've re-learned that lesson. And that is why I say again, I HATE conflict!