Taming your inner conflict junkie is Habit 4 of the 7 Habits of Conflict Zen®.
What is a conflict junkie?
I made up the term conflict junkie. I think of a conflict junkie as someone who’s addicted to argument. Not just a good debater, but someone for whom arguing has become a habit in interacting with others. And, as the term junkie suggests, it’s out of control and not really working for them anymore (if it ever did).
By the way, when I googled the term to see if anyone else had used it online, I discovered a toe-tapping pop song named “Conflict Junkie” by Layla Kalif (affiliate link).
How do you know if you have an inner conflict junkie?
Here are some signs described by clients I’ve helped change conflict behaviors that were doing them a disservice:
- You get “hooked” by conflict situations more easily than you or those around you want.
- You take the bait before your sense of reason kicks in.
- You feel attacked pretty easily, even when attacking wasn’t the other’s intention at all.
- People around you say things like, “Why does everything turn into an argument with you?”
- You’re from New York. Sorry, just couldn’t resist. I’m from NY originally and know that of which I speak! Kidding aside, conflict is cultural and the way you engage it also has cultural roots. My Midwestern husband sees a bit of the conflict junkie in me. My NY siblings, however, probably think I’ve gone soft.
Is having an inner conflict junkie the same as having an anger management problem?
I look at this through the eyes of a professional mediator and conflict management coach, not an anger management specialist. And what we see depends on what we look for (with a nod to Sir John Lubbock). So I can’t tell you if you have an anger management problem and I wouldn’t even try.
I know folks who would describe themselves as conflict junkies who also get out of control with their anger pretty easily. And I know who folks who would describe themselves as conflict junkies who stay cool as a cucumber in conflict — but it’s the frequency with which they find themselves in conflict that’s the problem, not their anger per se.
Why is taming your conflict junkie important?
Look, you get to decide if it’s important to you or not. If you’re getting feedback from colleagues or bosses that your penchant for escalating conflict is a problem, then that’s a good hint you may want to attend to it. If you’re getting feedback of a similar nature from your partner, your spouse, your friends, also good hints.
Folks I’ve worked with who would describe themselves as conflict junkies tell me they seek outcomes like:
- The ability to stop themselves before they get sucked in too easily.
- The ability to negotiate better for themselves by not losing their cool.
- A little less emotional debris in their day-to-day lives.
- Colleagues and co-workers who don’t walk on eggshells around them.
- Co-workers, friends and family members who don’t avoid speaking their minds for fear of another argument.
How to tame your inner conflict junkie
Well, ain’t that the million dollar question. While I can’t answer what will work specifically for you, I can say that when I work with folks who want to tame their inner conflict junkie success usually comes from a combination of:
- Identifying and selecting strategies for managing your conflict triggers.
- Learning how to notice the choice points in a difficult conversation, those places where you can choose an alternative path before your habit behavior kicks in fully.
- Learning how to think through the noise when conversations get difficult, and get your balance back.
- Learning how to choose the arguments that matter and walk away from those that don’t.
Have you tamed your own inner conflict junkie? How did you do it?