I've been talking about conflict with people a lot recently. Someone left a community I'm in due to conflict, and while I wish I could write out the whole fascinating story, I'm not going to do that in a public place. But there's an aspect of the conflict that I've been thinking about in a more general sense, and I want to write about some of the ideas I've been exploring around it.
Sometimes we talk about someone's personal conflict style as either direct or conflict-averse. Direct feedback-givers are described as honest -- they share their opinions quickly instead of letting feelings fester, and they don't feel the need to "fluff" what they say. Conflict-averse people are said to never bring up their feelings, letting resentment build until relationships spontaneously fall apart. Someone who identifies as "direct" might feel afraid that someone who is "conflict-averse" is always upset with them but won't tell them, and someone who is more conflict-averse might feel afraid when someone "direct" yells at them or talks through conflict with condescending or defensive tone.
I've seen a lot of direct feedback-givers think their style is better, but I don't think we should strive for either style. Sometimes it's better to wait to give feedback or work through conflict, e.g. waiting until a time when both parties can engage constructively, to prevent unnecessary escalation of the conflict. Sometimes there's no good time and it's better to talk sooner instead of later.
Here are questions I want to ask myself to better find a constructive place to engage in feedback:
This is all assuming I want to heal the relationship and address the conflict. There are times when giving up makes more sense -- maybe I have little to gain by keeping the relationship, or I don't have the emotional capacity to engage in conversations that feel really difficult for me. But I think people often leave because they just don't know what to do, and I hope that communities can continue to explore and support each other through conflict to work towards a world where this is easier for all of us.