Consequences of Men Avoiding Conflict

Consequences of Men Avoiding Conflict

a confused and lost man

While there’s never been a time in human history without conflict, over the last decade, conflict has been more prominent in American culture, our homes, offices, and social relationships. It’s impacted our holidays, friendships, networking, and many other public and private spaces. Political fights used to be reserved for that wacky family outlier. Battles over homelessness, abortion, racism, and the Middle East were things done in specific spaces or led by the am radio hosts. But now, conflict is part of daily life. 


Unless you fall into the camp of those who avoid it at all costs. You shy away from it altogether. This is the other side of the coin. For men, while creating conflict has primarily been an issue, shying away from it is as big of a problem. With the rise and prominence of feminism, the #metoo movement, toxic masculinity, and abuses of power by men in and across industries, so-called masculine leaders have sprouted up, encouraging men to become the myth of Alphas, become more “Masculine,” return to the old ways 1950’s Marbollo Man masculine mentality and resist what they believe to be the softening of men. 


What has become painstakingly clear is men need to learn how to create and utilize conflict in service of themselves, their communities, and the things they value. While conflict could be an authentic byproduct of their passion, truth, and commitments, it’s often a product of stubbornness, avoidance, and fear. 


We’ve all been there – exhausted by a conflict that we know needs to be addressed. When a disagreement sprouts up, we shy away from engaging directly. We sense tension building in a relationship but gloss over it to keep the peace or avoid the fight. We withhold our truth because we fear how it might land when spoken. We suggest offering a colleague but biting our tongues to avoid ruffling feathers. 


I see well-intentioned leaders sidestepping conflict constantly. Most see the leaders before them reing fire and brimstone down on their teams and staff and how authoritarian fear-based leadership doesn’t work, so they retreat to the other polarity. While avoiding disputes, saying the hard thing, or speaking your truth can prevent hurt feelings, disruption, or retaliation in the short term, this approach cheats on ourselves and our relationships of honesty, intimacy, and the trust in faith in others’ ability to handle challenges. Without airing grievances openly and responsibly, resentment silently festers while necessary growth gets suppressed. 


Both research and real-world experience confirm that reasonable conflict preceded by strong relationships produces greater internal motivation, better solutions, and closer bonds between people. Positioned constructively, conflict provides a precious opportunity to evolve – our perspectives, partnerships, and future selves.


I do not suggest we start arguments just for sport, as anyone blindsided by an emotional meltdown or character assassination understands all too clearly – that conflicts mishandled or initiated prematurely create chaos and distrust and can ultimately end relationships. 


However, eliminating constructive contention in hopes of keeping the peace typically backfires. Team Members who are afraid to challenge flawed ideas or processes end up dealing with more problems. Couples who habitually sidestep difficult discussions find themselves virtual strangers. Leaders who ignore dysfunctional group dynamics and don’t encourage honest feedback watch culture and performance erode. 


Though counterintuitive, intelligent conflict kickstarts creativity, resilience, innovation, and other drivers of excellence. Handled deftly, disagreements produce insight that parties working independently could never achieve. Just observe elite athletes, superior militaries, or championship-level organizations – conflict training and simulated pressures feature prominently in their formulas for success. 


And while cultural norms demonize arguments, we actually possess an incredible human capacity for handling conflict when adequately prepared and supported. In fact, regular exposure to manageable contention expands that capacity further. Like how cold exposure strengthens our immune systems, encourages happy hormone release, and expands our ability to be with and deal with stressful situations, resisting the urge to avoid disputes builds emotional tenacity for future trials, expands perspectives, and ultimately creates intimacy and trust. 


The operative word is “manageable” – attempting Everest without basic mountaineering skills rarely ends well. But investing first in foundational training and then progressing thoughtfully against genuine challenges? That’s how growth and greatness happen.  


With some exceptions, sheltering people from all forms of conflict borders on unethical – we inadvertently stunt their development. Memorizing times tables won’t make someone a mathematician. Likewise, watching others handle disputes doesn’t develop personal abilities to bridge complex disagreements. Confidence blooms through practice – theory has limits.


Herein lies a tremendous opportunity: structured training in the art and science of conflict can equip people with the mindset, communication techniques, and emotional regulation needed to survive and thrive when controversy erupts. And invite it when appropriate.


Imagine work cultures centered on the candid sharing of ideas and feedback. Envision romantic relationships defined by gently fearless honesty and intimacy. Consider team dynamics fueled by passionate but principled debate. 


These hypotheticals represent what’s possible when we help people view and approach conflict through a lens of growth instead of danger. When we teach them to enter turmoil not with trepidation but a starving curiosity – hungry for insight and self-discovery waits on the other side. When we demonstrate by tackling tensions head-on ourselves, we lead by example.


With care and courage, friction generates light. But first, we must conquer an age-old stigma – chaos avoided is wisdom lost. Progress requires perturbation. Our dance with disruption confronts us with previously unseen aspects of ourselves and situations, summoning fortitude we didn’t realize existed. 


So, let us have the bravery to normalize conflict – not abuse or pugnacity, but the earnest exploration of divergent perspectives and ideas. Let us provide training to respond appropriately when disagreements emerge rather than reflexively avoid them. 


And during life’s inevitable moments of discord, may we step into the fray with openness, patience, and compassion so they produce understanding – not animosity. Lean into conflict wisely, and let it strengthen your foundation. The only unacceptable response is avoidance.

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