I grew up attempting to avoid conflict at all cost. I quickly learned the best way to address conflict with my parents and other adults was to use the stonewall technique. In the stonewall technique, you simply stop talking and out wait the person. However, I knew it always left me drained.
As I got older, I decided that since I was unable to walk away from conflict, it was best to take charge. I became the proprietor of conflict, especially with my Dad. While I truly loved my dad, I would describe my relationship with my father as that of two aliens forced to occupy the same solar system. We did not know or understand each other, in that my dad was “all or nothing,” “glass is half full,” kind of person, whereas I am an optimist, go with the flow, things will work themselves out. I had always used the stonewall approach with my dad, and it never seemed to resolve any of our differences. He was relentless with his expectations. He had expectations that I would become an accountant, and I knew how terrible I was at math, and I was never able to stonewall my educational expectations. When I mentionedthat I was going to be a speech pathologist it did not go well. Therefore, I never spoke to him about it again; if he brought it up, I became defensive.
I became an expert in defensive communication. Whenever I spoke to my dad about anything I anticipated his response, therefore, I often started the conversation by attacking, “I know you are not going to agree or accept anyway, but I just wanted to tell you….?” Knowing that this would upset him and that he would start criticizing my choice, I had my armor defensive victim role ready. This became our cycle until I gradually stopped communicating with my dad unless it was unavoidable. One day, I was working with my young adults’ social skills group, and we all had to answer questions about our communication styles, and that is when my role in conflict became very clear. I wrote down the following questions for myself:
- Why do I have this need to be right all the time?
- Why is it hard for me to hear others during conflicts?
- Why do I feel that to resolve conflict I must win?
- Why have I become this person that seeks out conflict?
- Why do I always take on the victim role with certain people?
I have come to recognize that resolving conflict takes patience, accountability, and compromise. Regardless of who you are, you are going to feel hurt when people do not agree with your position or comments. However, it is always wise to take three steps back and analyze your response. Take accountability in how much you are willing to communicate, how much you are willing to accept ,and how much you are willing to change your perspective on the situation. Like it or not conflict is in our DNA. To manage and resolve any conflict I am learning to comprise. I have come to accept that resolving conflicts with our friends and families often takes more time, patience, and creativity, but the results are often more rewarding than playing destructive roles.
Uduak (Udie) Osom holds a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Speech and Language Pathology from San Jose State University. Udie has served students of all ability levels from preschool through grade 12, for over 20 years. She is very passionate about neuro-developmental disabilities and social-cognitive disabilities. She is the owner/director of Innovative Therapy Services, a pediatric speech, language and social skills clinic in Santa Clara, CA. She can be reached at: email@example.com.