Conflict. We don’t like it. For empaths, conflict inflicts emotional overload. We feel our emotions strongly, and we feel the emotions of the others disagreeing with us strongly. Their emotions feel like an attack. A physical onslaught. What’s an empath to do?
If it’s a flight or fight scenario, I can tell you that our instinct is to run. To vacate the premises is a vote for self-preservation. This is often mistakenly interpreted as giving in to the other side. It is not. It is leaving to get away from the hostility and to re-group for another, and hopefully better, discussion.
The word “conflict” implies a serious and often prolonged argument or disagreement. Empaths don’t look for arguments, but neither do we back down to injustices. Sometimes we are thrust into the position to advocate for ourselves and others. We likely feel passionate about our view, yet physically incapable of a shouting match. Which is a good thing. Shouting feels like violence to us. (And please know, if you are shouting at an empath, they don’t even hear your words. They just hear yelling and will get away from you as quickly as possible.)
I’ve learned two tactics to arm myself in times of ongoing conflict. One is to prepare. The other is to pause.
I am in a situation now where I need to advocate for someone in my family who I love very much. So my advocacy is also steeped in emotion. I recognize this, and to handle it, I switch gears. I go to my head and educate myself. I will go into the meetings required better prepared than anyone else in the room. I will stick to the issues – which is what is best and fair for my family member. I have learned that with planning and presenting information in a clear but not accusatory way often is enough to accomplish your goals.
The second tactic is to pause. If a situation is not going well, and clearly the conflict and hostility are rising in the room, stop everything. Push the pause button. Do not agree to anything except the next time to meet and discuss the issue. Time and thought can be a game changer. The key is to remember that you do not have to agree to anything on someone else’s time table.
Now here is the hardest part for me – ONGOING conflict which requires ongoing advocacy. Dedication is required on a whole other level. It can be exhausting. Close to soul crushing. You will need defiant joy. Defiant because you will not give up. You will continue defying those who block you. Joy because you can still feel happiness in your life in the midst of this conflict. Defiant joy is a choice you can make when those around you say that you have no choice. Yes, you do. Exercise it.