Conflict resolution breakthrough

TRIGGER WARNING: corny moment of self-reflection

So, I’ve been thinking a lot about conflict and how to deal with aggression. Part of it is just reflecting on my behaviour in past relationships and what I’ve learned through that. But I also recently wrote an It Happened to Me for xoJane that hit a nerve with some commenters. I thought it was important to respond to them (and also I am contractually required to).

These comments were only borderline snarky and not really looking for a fight, but it still stung to be criticized, whether I deserved it or not. But I went through each comment and clarified what they didn’t understand, or gently suggest that they read the entire article (because COME ON).

It was really validating to read the (many more! Thank you!) positive responses to my writing — nice for the ego! —  but what really moved me were the comments that mentioned how impressed they were of how I was conducting myself in the conversation. I guess I’m pretty good at keeping the peace. Middle child thing, maybe?

I’ve figured out that the best way to handle anger/hostility/aggression is in a way that allows both parties to walk away unscathed, with dignities intact. It’s sort of like emotional aikido. I’m not counting physical aggression — I haven’t had to deal with that ever, and I hope I never have to. But when someone comes after me verbally with rage or aggression, I want to stop it. It’s not good if I just do whatever it takes to appease someone (LIFE LESSON), but I’ve learned to redirect those feelings towards the problem, not a person (and especially not me. Unless it’s my fault. Then sorry.). It’s usually anger masking fear or hurt. Dig for the real reasons and deal with those needs.

I’m also pretty lucky that I’ve been able to create a life for myself that gives me room for a lot of self-care so I can have the energy to cope with stress. When I’m stressed (like when I was teaching), I’m a disaster. It’s way easier to deal with conflict calmly and patiently if you’re actually calm and patient. Life is hard, and everyone struggles. We need to ask the question: how do we find the strength and generosity to let each other co-exist?

And you know what? I need to do this for my self-loathing — I can be so cruel to myself. For a few years now I’ve been living in reaction to my feelings instead of listening to what they really have to say and figuring out what I actually need. So instead of risking angering someone, I diminished myself and became a boiling volcano of resentment. I’ve been so scared of opening up discussions because I knew that the outcome might/will hurt a little in the short term, but would be wise in the long term.


Doing the right thing feels like shit. Tell me I’m going to be OK.

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3 Responses to Conflict resolution breakthrough

  1. Katie says:

    Hey there Mari! I hope this isn’t horribly creepy of me, but I looked up your blog after I read that xoJane essay you wrote because I really enjoyed it and thought to myself, “Hey! A real writer!” And sure enough, that’s what you, like, do. :)

    I relate to a lot of what you wrote in this post as well, about the difficulty of negotiating other people’s negativity, wanting to be considered acceptable, judging myself too harshly, etc. I think it must just be very normal and human. Keep on keepin’ on, and I’ll bookmark your blog so I can remember to keep up with your writing.

    xx, Katie

  2. Ruz-El says:

    YOU’RE GOING TO BE OKAY! Doing the right thing always sucks. I’ve lost most of my friend group due to it, I can sympathize. It’s refreshing to read someone like yourself who is handling it, and recognizing things, a lot better that I did. (that you recognize what you are doing is “handling it” it better, since you can concentrate on fixing the things causing your self loathing right? Easier said than done, I know…)

    Great job!

  3. mari says:

    You guys! This is really helping. Thanks for reading and caring.

    Really, this is a lot of hard-learnt lessons. 2014 was the worst year ever in a string of bad years where my confidence in every aspect of my life was crushed. I spent a lot of time and energy doing things that only helped me survive and nothing more. Now I feel like I can do things that make me happy. I only started feeling like a real writer again in the past couple months when I decided to stop chasing money for a while and write what I want to write. xoJane really saved me by giving me a place to publish my stuff.

    I’m trying to get a day job now so I can afford to live while I’m exploring the more creative work that’s been happening lately. The ideas are flowing now, and I hope they keep coming. Thanks for being here. It really means a lot.

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