Sharing one’s environment with people who seek conflict is like living in a minefield. With their permanent displeasure they poison the ambience, they sow this fear, which goes hand in hand with the knowledge that a thoughtless comment, a gesture or a word is enough to drop the bomb. In doing so, they transfer to us the tension that results from their inner struggles.
We have all faced the challenge of dealing or negotiating with a conflicting person. We are not talking about the typical troublemaker that we can find in almost every classroom. Problems in defining identity are to be expected in adolescence, but this is about people who should have more or less completed this process. We refer to a very specific profile, which is characterized by behaviors that aim to destabilize, upset the balance in the family, at work or elsewhere. It is these people that we would rather not have as neighbors and even less as roommates, because they keep calling us to the battlefield –although it is not our fight that is being fought there.
This behavior resembles that of an addict, an almost compulsive search for an argument. Your actions are not anecdotes, but the solid foundation of a pattern of behavior that influential authors like Bill Eddy, founder and mediator at the Institute for Conflict Resolution, warn against. In our modern society there is hardly an area in which we do not come across people who seek conflict in constant struggle with themselves. Therefore , we should become aware of their presence, learn to understand what is behind their behavior, and develop strategies to deal with them.
“Some people sow happiness where they walk, others when they walk.”
Those who seek conflict – anatomy of anger
Well, we could say that the best strategy for avoiding problems with these people is to avoid them. However, we often have to face situations from which we cannot escape through the back door. Sometimes we don’t have the chance to choose who we live, work or otherwise interact with. Then we cannot create a distance, simply delete the contact data. We are social beings and as such we have an obligation to get along with others. In addition, there is a possibility that we ourselves have a conflicting personality. We may also provoke arguments when we don’t know how else to cope with the circumstances.
We want to mention another aspect with which social workers and lawyers in particular, but also psychologists and psychiatrists who deal with clients who are looking for conflict, are familiar. Whether we want to believe it or not, this addiction to conflict often leads to accusations and demands, to legal disputes regarding the conditions in the workplace or in the personal environment. A tendency to violence can also be seen in conflicting people. If we look at the whole thing in a sober way, it is not surprising: those who seek conflict try to project their anger onto those around them and thus free themselves from it.
The aforementioned Bill Eddy estimates that up to 15% of the population have characteristics of mental disorders as recorded in the Diagnostic and Statistical Guide to Mental Disorders , with a not inconsiderable proportion of those affected, namely around one in ten, being more prone to conflict. Now let’s look at what characteristics and behaviors make up this personality.
How do we recognize people who are looking for conflict?
When we face a person who is looking for conflict , we should remind ourselves that this problem, this conflict that is developing, is not real. Rather, the reaction of our counterpart corresponds to a projection of an internal struggle that does not have to have anything to do with the real situation. So the real problem is not between us, but within him. There is no equilibrium inside, the person concerned is unable to regulate his emotions appropriately, and he lacks resilience.
These are its characteristics:
- In his thinking patterns there is all or nothing and in his mind the negative thoughts dominate. He doesn’t take the time to analyze a situation and he lacks the flexibility to look at it from different perspectives. If someone or something does not meet their expectations or simply displeases them, a very simple reaction is formed, which is limited to criticism and aggression.
- Little effective emotional control. Conflicting people may well have some control over their emotions, but they only exercise this control for one purpose, namely to manipulate others in their feelings. Most, however, limit themselves to pouring their anger and anger over those around them until they create a really exhausting atmosphere.
- Destabilization of people, relationships and the environment. Those who constantly seek conflict are experts in criticizing, spreading rumors, humiliating others, and placing themselves in a position of apparent dominance.
- Zero resistance to frustration and ongoing search for scapegoats. These people simply don’t tolerate life when things don’t go the way they imagine. It is overwhelming for them to solve problems effectively, which is why frustration is only followed by more frustration. This makes them angry and they see no other way out than to blame someone else for their dilemma.
- The conflicting person is not able to reflect on the aforementioned ways of thinking and behaving. Furthermore, he lacks empathy to be able to recognize what he is doing in others. Since he cannot discover any faults in himself or in your actions, he refuses to take responsibility for any consequences. No solution is sought for the underlying problem either, since this is not even identified as such.
“Those who cannot find peace with themselves will eventually declare war on the whole world.”
How should we deal with these people?
Among the people who seek conflict, there are those with whom, despite our best efforts, we will not find a green branch, and others with whom we will eventually find a common denominator. Be that as it may, the exchange with them is usually complex and can be exhausting for us. To avoid wasting all of our energy here, we need to take adequate measures. A first is to keep the following fact in mind: We may feel hurt when criticism and aggression fly around our ears, but the reaction of our counterpart is not to be taken personally. In fact, it is in conflict with itself.
Therefore it is best not to use excessive resources to bring this person to reason, to convince him with logical arguments. It makes little sense to explain our point of view and to rebut counter-arguments if the other person is not interested in them. Better focus on not getting caught in this storm of emotions raging inside. If we know how to recognize it, we can get more secure and reduce the effects on our own emotional world.
So far, the search for the conflict has not been listed as an independent disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Guide to Mental Disorders , but that does not mean that it cannot be treated. From a clinical point of view, it is definitely relevant that psychotherapists and other experts are able to help those affected to change their thinking and behavioral patterns. Improvement can be achieved by working on emotional regulation, identification and management of anger, by strengthening the connection with other people and the ability to empathize. These are the prerequisites for more respectful and at the same time more self-assured behavior.
In conclusion, we would like to emphasize that no one has applied for their conflicting personality. Behind her there is usually a deep abyss full of emotional burdens and unhealed wounds. Although we shouldn’t take this on ourselves, we should treat those affected with a certain understanding that they need help. In this way we can contribute to avoiding conflicts ourselves.