Communication, Even about the Yucky Stuff

Me, like most people used to absolutely avoid conflict. The unfortunate part about avoiding conflict is that things build and then become a blow up disaster.

As trauma survivors, even the idea of confronting the smallest conflict can be frightening or triggering. I know I used to avoid it as I somehow always believed people would end up yelling and screaming, begin saying ugly and mean things, and someone would run out of the house kicking a hole in the plaster of the wall on the way out. Of course, this was my true schéma from childhood watching my parents fight or my mom fighting with me. We didn’t do “conflict resolution”, we just perpetuated abuse.

So as you can imagine, when I started learning about having proper communication about conflicts, I just shut down as this topic was too anxiety producing to even begin to tackle. As I tackled the trauma and learned to deal with my PTSD symptoms effectively, I realized that avoiding conflict was a huge problem.

If something seems unjust or even a tiny bit unfair to me, I bring it up. I may not be perfect in how I do it, but I’m finding my true friends are ones who negotiate my imperfection with me.

The benefit of bringing up conflict with another is not about proving you’re right, it’s about voicing your feelings, allowing the other person to voice theirs, really listening to each other and coming up with a mutual solution. (It may sound impossible, but it really has happened for me in a very calm manner and NO screaming involved!)

People who can truly involve in conflict resolution are my heroes. I watch and learn from them and attempt it in my life. When I’ve managed to negotiate a conflict, whether it was quick and smooth or lengthy and rocky are friendships that grew. These instances of growth are even greater than those talks where you talk about how much in common you have.

I encourage you to bring up conflict, even if it ends dreadfully as the other person can’t do it or accuses you of things in an ugly way. Maybe they will come around to be able to communicate later or maybe they never will, and in that instance, I’m not sure it’s a relationship that was worth it. Relationships where there is no conflict isn’t a real relationship. When someone exclaims “we never fight”, I always think it’s strange. Remember fighting does not equal abuse.

As you start to stand up for yourself through bringing up conflict, remember to give yourself grace. It’s not going to be easy. You may have to apologize as you may be too strong, but still stand strong in what you originally were speaking up for. NEVER and I mean NEVER apologize for something that isn’t yours or to get out of the situation. That is not being authentic.

And my final gem is that people are like ice cream. Not everyone likes every flavor. I happen to hate rocky road. I also happen to not care for lots of people. It’s ok and normal. If you start to be authentic and people begin to dislike you, good job!! You’re probably doing it right!

Go conflict!



2 thoughts on “Communication, Even about the Yucky Stuff”

  1. Excellent thoughts! I used to tell my students that my love language was disagreement. I learned to follow it up with an explanation of how respectful disagreement looks and doesn’t look, but it was really important to me that they understand that learning and growth happen at the intersection and connection of different perspectives and insights.

    I also like that you say you may not always do it perfectly, but if both sides can be honest and keep the humanity of the other in mind, there’s room for stumbling along while we’re both working towards this kind of authentic relationship.

    Your ice cream analogy is good (ice cream makes any point better anyway, lol). It really helped me to understand that about counselors and doctors. They’re people too, and I’m not going to get along comfortably with every one of them. That’s not a failure on either of our parts. I think a starting point of assuming and showing kindness towards everyone, even those I don’t get along with, frees me up to invest more time in some relationships without needing to burn bridges with those I’m distancing myself from. I don’t know if that makes sense. I guess I’m saying it’s freeing to be able to decide to see a different counselor without feeling like I can only do so if things have escalated. I can move on while there’s still cordiality without feeling the need to have a bigger justification (which can cause one to hang on until they can’t and then blow up). It’s always nice to think out loud about these things.


    1. Dana, I completely agree. It is so good to settle the little disagreements before they turn to huge explosions. I’ve learned this with regular relationships as well as counselors and doctors as well. If I don’t mesh with someone, I am always free to change my mind about anything, including people. I feel it’s good to give explanations and not just leave, but I believe a psychologist early in my trauma treatment probably said one of the best things to me that has stuck for over 20 years and that’s that “you never have to feel guilty for changing your mind”. I used to believe that once my mind was made up, I was stuck with the decision no matter how bad or good. There is freedom in knowing you aren’t stuck in anything, whether it be relationships or at the ice cream shop!
      Love you


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