I’ve realized I avoid conflict. While that’s not an inherently bad thing (and many would argue that a natural tendency to avoid picking fights with people is a pretty good quality to have), it’s surprising for me to come to terms with about myself. If you had asked me perhaps a week ago, I would’ve told you that I embrace conflict, that I embrace the truth above everything. Screw feelings, I should be honest with you.
And in theory, I do still believe that. I think there’s a lot of value in being honest, in not wasting time pretending to like someone you can’t stand, or in holding back your views when someone is sharing a malicious opinion. When it’s in the abstract, I’ll pick the truth over peace every time.
But in reality? As soon as I feel a conversation taking a turn away from my opinions, I feel myself get caught up in the tide of the other person’s view. I start nodding, start agreeing. I start saying “I can see where you’re coming from,” “That makes sense,” and “Yeah, it’s really not that bad.” All of my reverence for the truth sinks beneath this temporary, powerful wave of acquiescence. Then we change subjects, the wave disappears, and I’m left wondering why I didn’t say more.
Unfortunately, I think a lot of my clamming up has to do with fear. Most of these conversations that border on conflict or disagreement are with friends, people whose thoughts and acceptance I respect and want to hold on to. At some point, I developed this strong fear that if I disagree with my friends, they will immediately and unquestioningly stop liking me. Somehow I started holding onto this ridiculous notion that my friendships are built only on shared opinions.
Again, logically, I would say something else. I would say that of course my friendships are built on much more than like-mindedness, and that many friends have different opinions. I might even go so far as to say that disagreeing with a friend is a great thing – who else other than a friend could you have a heated debate with and come out the other side still close? But then reality slips in and I zip my opinions back up again.
There is some hope for me yet. Besides the fact that I’ve become self-aware of this tendency, I’ve also become aware of what happens when I do let a contrary thought slip out. When a friend is flying through a rant about someone and I interrupt with “Oh, I like them,” they don’t freak out. They don’t accuse me of betraying them and show me the door. They agree with me, or, more often than not, continue on with what they were going to say anyway. I pay my respects to the truth, and we stay friends. Everybody wins.
So look out, readers. I’m going to take my opinions out of this cloud of theoretical honesty and uncontested online blurbs and release them into the real world. I’m going to start putting up a fight.