Social anxiety is a common fear that people carry with them throughout their lives. While some fear spiders, snakes, storms, and even holes, those with social anxiety are so consumed with what people think about them that they fear social situations. Admittedly, I am one of those people. In the next few weeks, I will share what social anxiety looks like for me and how I deal with it. For now, I will discuss the scariest part of social experiences for me: conflict resolution!
Whether you have an anxiety disorder or not, conflict resolution is scary! Here’s why:
- You have to share your feelings with someone that hurt you
- You can’t control how that person is going to react
- It’s possible that you will pour your heart out to a person that broke your heart, only for there to be no change whatsoever to your relationship
In college, someone rubbed me the wrong way for years. We were always butting heads. About a month before graduation, we found time to talk in private and attempt to work through our differences. Despite the fact that we’d had such heated arguments in the past, we were both able to talk to each other openly and honestly.
Conflict resolution is a muscle that will develop over time, as you use it. However, if you fear social settings, conflict can fuel your anxiety. Here are some tips I’ve learned to make dealing with conflict easier:
- Remember that God is your defender: In Psalm 18, David sings praises about how God defends him against his enemies. God can do the same for you. If you have a conflict with someone, remember that God is on your side, and he wants what is best for you and this person in your life. Cover your conflict in prayer, from deciding the right time to bring it up, to the moment when you reach a resolution.
- Choose your battles: As much as I am a fan of dealing with my feelings, I realize that not everyone is willing to hear me out. If someone hurts me, I have to pray about whether or not it is worth bringing up. I ask myself these two questions use to determine if I need to say something: 1) Am I hurt so bad that it’s affecting my daily life? 2) Is this person important enough to me to share my heart with them? If I have a bad experience with a family member, I will talk to them about it. However, if a receptionist is rude to me on the phone, I choose not to answer the phone when she calls me back instead of trying to get her fired. (No, that didn’t happen yesterday…)
- Don’t run from fear: Don’t blame God for your fear of conflict! I’ve heard people tell me that they feel God is calling them to “let it go,” and while (as I explained in the last point) that is possible, I want to challenge you to think about if you’re afraid of conflict or if you truly think bringing it up will make your relationship worse.
- Be honest: I know that when you have a good heart but you’re angry at someone for a valid reason, it is difficult to look that person in the eye and be honest about how you feel. However, honesty will bring you closer together. If you simply desire to be a peacemaker and sweep your problems under the rug, you will develop bitterness instead of experiencing the full healing that God wants you to enjoy in your relationships. When sharing your feelings, remember to use “I” statements instead of blaming.
- Have an open mind about the resolution: Of course, I want to win every conflict that I face, especially after facing my social anxiety and building up the courage to talk to those who upset me. However, while most conflicts resolve as win-win situations for both parties, I recently had a conversation with someone that resulted in an “agree to disagree.” We were both completely honest and we validated each other’s sides, but we could not reach a point where we were on the same side, so we simply resolved to pause the conversation and bring it up again when we needed to deal with it. No matter what happens, consider it a victory that you followed all of the steps to overcome your fear and make the relationship better.
Conflict resolution is scary, and may cause us to freeze or run away, but it is necessary for our growth and for our relationships. As usual, remember to be easy on yourself. It will take time before you become a master at being honest with your emotions and expressing them to those who hurt you.