Avoiding Conflict

Sitting here at my desk in my new office in the new Kefour Edition Building, it occurs to me that this month has been one of the most peaceful I can recall. Perhaps I've just not heard of new scandals and controversies, but I tend to trust my perception because our purveyor of purient interests, Louvella Parsnips, periodically stalks through the newsroom in an absolute rage.

Noticing this peace has made me think about the nature of it, what disrupts it, and how to regain and retain it.

Unrest arises when an individual or group demonstrates - by word or deed - that which diverges from the ideas of someone else. This is true in a dispute between citizens or civilizations. In either case, one side's expression provokes a negative response which, in turn, is often calculated to re-provoke the first party.

Complicating this is the fact that disputes draw attention, and parties soon arrive who are not directly involved. Some try to bring about compromise, and some try to stir things up by becoming allied with one side. Others feel it their responsibility to interject their opinions (invited or not) while a few just want to be involved in whatever has people's attention.

None one of these people know, as do the original participants, what the dispute was really about. Their words and deeds only serve to cloud the issue(s) leading to even greater conflict.

Then too, newcomers form an audience which tends to bring out the performer in us. In front of an audience, neither side tends to compromise, and may even feel pressured to recruit allies, allies who bring their own ideas, prejudices, assumptions and agendas. Thus, even the best intentioned newcomer can exacerbate a dispute. Unless you are the kind of person who thrives on controversy, about this time you're apt to become disgusted with the entire situation whether you're involved or not.

Conflicts, however, need not progress this way. If you are strong in your convictions, there is no need to defend them, especially to someone intentionally baiting you. Refusing to dispute in public is nota weakness if your goal is peace.

Rather it is the strongest statement you can make; you are saying you will enforce peace around you be not becoming involved in open conflict. There will always be times you can't avoid it, but there are always ways to mitigate it, too. If your intent is to avoid spectacle, take your quarrel out of the public eye, and don't encourage spectators.

In addition, avoid becoming involved in other people's disputes, either as a spectator or a participant, unless specifically asked by sides to help mediate the dispute. When we spectate, we create an audience, and if we try to force a role as mediator, we may well provoke the original parties into resenting us for it, generating more bad feelings. If someone specifically asks for help, that is one thing, but we often seem to blindly jump into the disputes of others, out of loyalty or some other motivation, where we may not be wanted and probably are not needed. Most people seem able to take care of themselves; give them the chance to solve their own problems.

We all know people who thrive on conflict and delight in involving those who try to avoid it. They will always be around, sniffing through the detritus of our lives. If you want peace, don't dignify agitators with a response unless you absolutely must. Even then, do it on your terms, not theirs. No world is free of conflict, but there's no rule that says you must settle it in public.