Be Nice Until It’s Time To Not Be Nice

Unsurprisingly given the combat zone of my childhood, I have a strong aversion to conflict. Being an unarmed child around an adult who flies into a murderous rage over the smallest thing trains you to avoid all confrontation. It is literally a survival skill.

But I think that there are strong reasons for people to avoid conflict most of the time. We all live in a world of finite resources, time being the most precious, and perhaps most finite, of all. The mathematics just works out that conflict will eventually arise. One way to avoid the conflict is to increase the resource in question, either by becoming more efficient in its use or by producing more of it.

Another way to avoid conflict is to simply yield to the other person. A fellow with whom I once worked says that the key to a successful marriage is two words: “Yes, dear.” His philosophy is that there is very little that is worth a fight with your partner. Two decades of marriage has borne out his thinking.

I can certainly take that too far and not protect my own interests as much as I ought. It has been a lifelong struggle to speak up sooner and not let it get to the point where I explode. But each and every time I have to enforce my own boundaries, to ensure that I get what I deserve, I am smothered with anxiety.

I literally have no idea how the other person will take it. Normal people have a good (although never perfect) prediction for how the other side in the conflict will respond. I, on the other hand, am surprised every time someone does not fly into a murderous rage.

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