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Laid Back or Just Avoiding Conflict?

November 18, 2011

I have always admired the laid back. The laissez faire approach to life and the devil may care attitude. However, I have recently been rethinking this, after  noting that sometimes this is subterfuge. An act put on to hide that being laid back is sometimes really a conflict avoidance strategy.

Many of us do it, my clients, colleagues, children and Ok, I admit it even me occasionally…. I even find, sometimes with my children, it is one I promote.

“So and so says I can’t run as fast as them” says no 1 child. “Oh, don’t worry”, I reply, “it’s not such a big deal, just let it wash over you”. Knowing that this is the umpteemth comment that this child has made about how my child isn’t as good as them. I  then jump straight into understanding the other child’s point of view and why they might have the need to feel better than other people, whilst unconsciously setting up no 1 child  for a lifetime of conflict avoidance. (It’s ok I am putting aside money for their therapy.)

The laid back promote the view that is important not to sweat the small stuff  and wear their label of  being laid back with pride, whilst then saying in their next breath that the reason they haven’t dealt with a particular sticking point is because they are avoiding a difficult conversation with X. “I am so laid back” they say, closely followed by “X is so irritating and if only they weren’t so defensive.” . “Have you talked to them about it” I ask? “Oh no”, they reply, “I really don’t like conflict”.

So could it be that we are fooling ourselves? Could ‘laid back’ be a positive spin on opting out of the awkward and difficult? Is it a behaviour that has tipped over the edge. Being so good at being laid back  that you loose the art of recognising how you are feeling and then using that feeling as the basis of real conversations that move things forward. Noticing, for instance,  that you are irritated and confused and then using this to understand what you need to not feel this. A formula a bit like this – Irritation and confusion = lack of clarity – therefore I need clarity. How hard would that be to say I don’t understand and want some clarity?

We fool ourselves into thinking that conflict means we don’t like the other person, when really it’s an indication of a conflicted feeling within us. We are feeling a negative emotion that indicates that we have a need that isn’t being met. We make it all about them rather then it being all about us. Could it just be that we can find out what we need  and just ask for it. How difficult would that be……

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 19, 2011 7:07 am

    The whole post is good, but the last paragraph is brilliant. I’d say you’re a spot on in your assessment. I’ve never known a “laid back” person that didn’t fled from conflict or confrontation. Isn’t avoidance of conflict the very definition of “laid back.”

    Really good post.

    • November 19, 2011 11:08 am

      Thank you so much. May’be we are brought up with a mistaken belief it is selfish to ask for what we need? The ‘I want doesn’t get’ and it translates over into other areas of your life.

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