Do you prefer conflicts to peaceful coexistence?
Before you rush to say, “Of course not,” think again. Many people perpetuate conflict because they fear the consequences of resolving it.
If you’re immersed in an ongoing dispute, at least you know what’s going on. Its parameters are familiar. You understand why you’re aggrieved and what’s at stake.
Conquering the conflict means shifting from the known to the unknown. People who learn to get along may wind up working longer hours doing harder work while suppressing their true feelings of ill will. That may scare off someone who’s grown at least somewhat comfortable with—or accepting of—the rancorous status quo.
Here are other anxieties that can stymie combatants:
Fear of admitting error. If you’re ashamed of your role in fomenting conflict, you may keep stoking the fire rather than dangling an olive branch. The price of peace is acknowledging your responsibility—a potentially painful admission.
Fear of trusting people. You’ve been burned before when reconciling with someone with a track record of behaving badly. That makes you hesitant to shake hands and agree to trust an adversary.
Fear of rejection. You worry that if you take the high road to resolve a conflict, you come across as a softie while the other person gains the upper hand. Placing yourself in such a vulnerable position may dissuade you from initiating a resolution, especially if your efforts fail.
Fear of losing allies. In many organizational conflicts, each party has allies who take their side. When the problem fades, combatants may sever a bond with colleagues who previously cheered them from the sidelines.