Over the past few weeks, my office has been conducting interviews to fill another key position vacancy, and while sitting at my desk trying to tackle my increased workload, I can’t help but listen in on the questions being asked of the candidates just down the hall. One question that comes up in every interview is how does the job applicant deal with conflict. This is a common enough question in a job interview, and one that should be expected. A number of the applicants have stumbled over their answers however.
When I was younger (a teenager in junior and senior high school), I had a very bad temper and would confront classmates on a near-daily basis. We would get into fights over petty things, such as possessions or disruptive behavior, and many of my peers who didn’t know me well considered my temper somewhat unpredictable. I even had a youth group leader who was slightly afraid of me. (I think his perspectives were a little warped, though, as he taught at a school for juvenile delinquents who had been permanently expelled from other public schools.)
As a grew older and attended college, I found myself turning my confrontational nature to online discussions on various website forums. I’m not proud of many of the arguments I engaged in on those websites, but then again, many of the other users I engaged with had similar attitudes and were looking for fights. I eventually grew bored and moved on from those types of discussions.
Today, I have a much calmer personality, and it’s mainly due to my current philosophy regarding confrontation. When it comes to conflict, I now tend to ignore things started by people who I judge to be beneath my considerations. This may sound harsh, but it’s not about discrimination or acting as if I’m better than anyone else. It’s actually about cutting from my life the things that should not be allowed to have power over it. This means that I do not permit the opinions of people who are not part of my inner circle of friends and family to have influence on my mental and emotional wellbeing. If an individual does not care about me as a person, then why should I care about that individual’s opinions? I can give them consideration as another perspective, but that does not mean they are worth the energy of confronting and arguing with if I disagree with that perspective. (This does not mean that I will not take the time to try to teach another about a differing perspective that they may not have noticed before, but engaging in arguments and heated debates with those firmly rooted in an opposing ideology is a waste of time and energy.)
One type of confrontation that will still rouse my fiery temper, however, is if I witness someone being unfairly attacked and find them failing to adequately defend themselves. I won’t steal another person’s battle, because I feel learning to stand up for oneself is a valuable skill to possess. But I will stand alongside those friends and family who have not yet fully developed their skills in verbal combat and debate. And no one is safe from my tongue at that point.
I’m not necessarily promoting these approaches to conflict as being the best, just as I won’t promote any one creative approach as being the best. But in today’s society that seems to promote division and an “us v them” attitude, I would like you to consider just how much power you give to others over you. Is it really worth allowing yourself to feel anger or rage towards someone who has no concern for you as a person? If you don’t exist in their world, then why should they be allowed to influence your mental and emotional health? This does not mean you should never stand up against injustice or to fight for equality and fairness for all people, but taking a stand does not require you to arouse senseless rage or unyielding anger.
Learn to be considerate. Learn to be patient. But above all else, learn to be self-empowered rather than world-influenced.