Unless we engage in conflict, the things that upset us will never change.
Life as an introvert is better if you embrace conflict. Don’t believe me? I’ll explain.
Confrontation isn’t fun for anyone, introvert or extrovert, but it can be especially draining for us “quiet ones.” It puts us under the spotlight and forces us to articulate our feelings in tense (and sometimes awkward) conversations.
That’s why, as an introvert, I’ve spent much of my life avoiding conflict.
Whenever problems popped up with roommates or family members, I usually “let them go.” I convinced myself that it was easier to put up with little inconveniences (like noisy neighbors) than to make a big deal out of them.
But the truth is it’s not.
In reality, it takes much more energy to actively ignore your problems than to address them directly. Yet people often do exactly that because they’re afraid of entering an uncomfortable situation or inconveniencing someone.
And that means always losing sleep to those noisy neighbors.
Or giving your friend a ride somewhere.
Or cleaning up your roommate’s dishes.
Now, you are certainly free to continue avoiding conflict for the rest of your life, and I will never judge you for that, because I can’t.
BUT, if you keep reading, I’ll explain why your life will be better (even as an introvert) if you embrace conflict, rather than avoid it.
Why It’s Better to Embrace Conflict
1. You’ll establish better boundaries.
Everyone has boundaries, but some people won’t respect yours unless you set them firmly.
When a person crosses the line, physically or emotionally, you must let them know. This means confronting the person about how they made you feel and explaining how you’d like to be treated in the future. There are two good reasons to do this:
- First, a person can’t change if they don’t know they’ve done something wrong. It’s your responsibility to let someone know when they’ve crossed a line. Simple as that.
- Second, by setting your boundaries now, you’ll become more practiced in standing your ground. This way, it won’t feel as unpleasant the next time around.
But, if you’re like me, most things are easier said than done. So, here are a few tips to actually set healthy boundaries.
2. Your friendships will grow stronger (and less draining).
Depending on the dynamic, friendships can challenge us introverts in a number of ways. Sometimes our friends might do or say things we disagree with, but since close friends are hard to come by, we let issues slide in order to preserve the relationship.
That is, we avoid conflict.
But as my younger (and wiser) brother always says, we should feel most comfortable being honest with our friends. Otherwise, they aren’t true friends.
Now, if the people closest to you do or say stuff that secretly upsets you, I want you to try something. I want you to speak up! No matter the issue, whether it be political, cultural, or ethical, a true friend will respect your opinion, even if they disagree with it.
And a false friend? They will not, and although it might feel painful to lose them, you’ll ultimately rid your life of someone who was probably a total energy drain anyway.
3. Other people will respect you more.
In prison movies, there’s always a scene where the new guy walks into the cafeteria and beats up the biggest, baddest dude he can find. He instantly gains respect, and no one messes with him after that.
Now, I don’t want you starting fights.
But one of the benefits of embracing conflict, whether it’s by setting boundaries or speaking up to a friend, is you’ll gain respect by showing your willingness to take action.
Think of the people you admire. They might have any number of qualities like intelligence, charisma, or business acumen, but chances are they always stand up for themselves and their beliefs.
Now, shying away from conflict might not cause people to disrespect you, but showing others you’re willing to stand your ground (for whatever reason) communicates self-respect, which in turn earns respect from others. And when people respect you, they will challenge you less.
So, for introverts (and anyone else, really), respect is a powerful tool that will prevent others from overstepping their personal boundaries. Leverage it.
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4. Your work life will improve.
I worked as a dog walker for a few months in Los Angeles. We served high-end clientele, and during training, my manager constantly rushed me. If I didn’t rinse bowls quickly or dole out the dog food fast enough, I’d hear an angry, “Hurry up!”
As a result, I developed persistent anxiety while working that job. And do you know what happened? I made mistakes. Mistakes I wouldn’t have made if I had taken my time and done the job at my pace.
I should have set boundaries and told my manager I wouldn’t be rushed. I should have stood up for myself when she belittled me, instead of keeping it all inside. But did I?
I made excuses and told myself I needed the money for rent (which I did), but the truth was I wanted to avoid unnecessary conflict.
Confronting our bosses can be difficult when our work is our livelihood. In the back of our minds, there is always the fear that broaching an uncomfortable subject will result in losing our jobs. Unfortunately, that fear isn’t always unfounded, but it is simply impossible to be productive when we feel rushed or burdened in the workplace.
If your boss is overbearing, disrespectful, or simply giving you too much work, say something.
Everyone is different, and we all prefer to work in our own way. As a matter of course, I often take breaks while working in order to recharge and reset my mind.
Ultimately, the dog walking job didn’t work out (thank god). I quit after my manager blew up on me for prematurely suiting up a French Bulldog for her walkies. And though I’m now self-employed, I vowed to never let anyone (boss or otherwise) treat me that way again.
5. You’ll avoid blow ups.
Unfortunately, I’m famous for keeping my mouth shut and then blowing up on people when they push me too far. It’s my signature move, and as an introvert, I don’t think I’m alone in this.
One time in college, my roommate invited a “few” (read: twelve) friends to stay at our house for the night without clearing it with the rest of the roommates. Although he was a good guy, he had a habit of pushing boundaries, and everyone was irked by the sheer number of people he’d loaded into the house. It irritated me from the outset, and I should have said something. But, I didn’t.
Later that night, after bar hopping with some friends, I came home to find my roommate and his group partying in the living room. He kindly asked me how I was doing. Do you know what I did?
In my drunken rage, I ripped into him for misleading us about how many people were staying over and lectured him on the house rules.
And I did it in front of his friends.
With a giant plate of Bagel Bites in my hands.
The next day, I woke up hungover and felt like a tool. I was so embarrassed I took a train out of town and profusely apologized to my roommate through text messages. Luckily, he was an understanding guy and forgave me.
But the whole blow-up could have been avoided if I’d quietly pulled my roommate aside and voiced my concerns. It would have been a simple, painless discussion, and nobody would have had to suffer my late night rant.
And the worst part of the story?
I didn’t eat one of those Bagel Bites.
For Introverts, Conflict Can Be a Good Thing
The truth we as introverts need to accept is that unless we engage in conflict, the things that upset us will never change.
So, the next time you find yourself shying from conflict, I want you to stop, turn around, and address it.
That doesn’t mean yelling or getting upset. In fact, you shouldn’t view conflict as a battle at all. Instead, keep things friendly and speak in a positive voice. If you smile and stay relaxed, your friend or neighbor will feel relaxed, too.
More importantly, make sure you listen when it’s their turn to talk. Show the other party you’re listening by repeating a few of their key points and phrases.
By using a relaxed, empathetic approach to conflict, you will ease tensions and save yourself a lot of stress. I promise you.