Conflict – avoid or embrace?

I had all sorts of other topics I was going to blog about this week – missionaries, motorbikes, and mangoes. But the week has been dominated by the house, so it seems fair that the blog should be too – for a little while longer, at least.

Some good things have happened. I had a really great chat on skype with our landlady, who lives in Tennessee at the moment. Mike and I figured out that if we sleep in the second bedroom the room is both darker and quieter – I can still hear roosters, but they are not nearly as strident. And the kitchen table has been a fun place to work this last couple of days. We don’t actually have anything kitchenish to clutter up that space yet, so I have commandeered the kitchen bench.

It is currently covered with small pieces of paper, each inscribed with a scene or a theme for the book I’m working on. I have the beginning of the story arc all mapped out, and the end, but the middle is just a mess of tiny pieces of paper marked with things like “cyberdating and filter theory”, “taxi driver’s treatise on love”, “interview – Vancouver”, “faith? and hope?” I’m hoping that being able to actually shift pieces of the puzzle around will help as I push forward with the narrative.

Ironically, the chapter that I am working on right now deals with a failed romance that taught me just how much of a conflict avoider I can be. And what has happened as we have moved in and tested out the house this week has shown me clearly that, although I have grown in leaps and bounds in this area, risking conflict is still not a personal strength.

We have emailed our distant landlord and the young man who has overseen our move-in three times already in the last three days with detailed descriptions of things that are happening around here that are, well, less than completely desirable.

So when I got up this morning to find Mike drafting up another letter about the water pressure (or lack thereof) in the upstairs bathrooms, my first instinct was to say, “Um… maybe we shouldn’t bring that up right now. There are lots of things on the ‘needs attention’ list already.”

“There is almost no water coming out of the sink in the middle bedroom,” Mike said. “The shower is only dripping this morning. The hot water heater in the other bedroom doesn’t work and the pressure’s only marginally better in there at the moment anyway. You know what that means? A cold shower for you this morning.”

“OK,” I said quickly, “Send the email.”

But now Mike has gone off to work and I’m left here to talk to the young man who is coming by with a handyman to make a start on things. I don’t think Mike and I are this young man’s favorite people in the world right now. And, much as I try to tell myself that we are really not being unreasonable, I know I’m going to have to work to keep myself from pre-empting my show and tell of the problems with a string of apologies.

“I’m really sorry we broke the bed in the master bedroom on the first night. I swear we didn’t provoke it – Mike merely sat on the bed and the (too small) nails on that entire side (that was not properly braced) just came apart.”

“I’m really sorry that the lights flicker and dance in a dim, distracting, ballet whenever we have the effrontery to have some lights and an AC on at the same time. Or, even worse, try for hot water.”

“I’m really sorry that a four year old can open some of the windows from the outside of the house because the window locks are so flimsy.”

Lest you think I am venturing into spiteful hyperbole on this last one, I’m not. This is exactly how we found out about this problem when we were showing some friends around the house last night. Their curious four-year-old put her hand up to the bedroom window from the upstairs balcony, tried to slide it open, and managed to do exactly that despite the fact that the window was, actually, locked from the inside.

I count myself very lucky that our landlord has expressed nothing but full support and a genuine desire to address these issues. I count myself very lucky that the young man tasked with being the on-site person here speaks excellent English. Yet I still feel a bit icky about it all. I hate feeling like we’re being a big hassle. I’m not particularly looking forward to the phone call telling me the handyman etc are on their way.

How did someone who is generally very accomplished and confident develop these strong instincts to avoid potential conflict? It’s been six years since the events in the chapter I am writing at the moment, and I’m still trying to figure this one out.

What about you? Conflict avoider, or conflict embracer?

8 responses to “Conflict – avoid or embrace?

  1. i know how you feel. i am an avid conflict avoider. in fact at the moment, i’ve been banned from apologising for more that three things in one day! and wierdly i too am generally accomplished and confident, but conflict, urgh. i heard someone a while ago (at a burnout-type conference) talking about how being taught to be “nice” can often affect our ability to deal with conflict. we work so hard at being nice, that we don’t stand up for what we need, to avoid putting someone else out. (not that i think they were advocating we all become bastards, but you know what i mean). still, i can say i am proud of the fact that i am getting much better at tacking conflict when i have to (sometimes, if i really really have to). deep breaths and strong supportive people are the key for me…

    • Yes! Yay Bec. Deep breaths. Encouragement. And envisioning the future if it’s not tackled now. That one can motivate me to action, even if not to “enjoying” the encounter.

  2. A bull dog can no doubt win a fight with a skunk, but it has to consider whether the win is worth the battle.

    • Yes, and I would like to think that it’s logical calculation that fuels all my conflict avoidance… Sigh. It’s not. I like the bull dog and skunk line though. I might use it on mike sometime. Although, come to think of it, I may play the role of skunk in some of our conflicts, so maybe I won’t use it on MIke.

  3. Michelle Williams

    one method of Conflict Avoidance, as per Judith Viorst in “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”…

    “I think I’ll move to Australia”

    Lisa, I think that both you and I have pulled that one before. A couple of times 🙂

    • That is true, indeed. Though I would like the record to reflect that I have not used this strategy for many, many, years. Not that I haven’t been tempted.

  4. Conflict avoider. AND if I have to do conflict I much prefer to do it via writing, not in person or over the phone!

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