The other day I was wandering Ikea with some mom friends. There were 4 of us, three strollers. We were in the kids section, and it was not too busy – it was a weekday afternoon. We stopped to look at something, and a woman made it clear she was trying to get around us. By ‘made it clear’ I don’t mean she said ‘excuse me’ or anything polite like that. No – she huffed and rolled her eyes, complaining loudly/to no one in particular about ‘people with kids always in the way’. She tried to step around us and one of my friends, who hadn’t noticed her, stepped in front of her. This woman completely lost it. She started swearing and yelling at us and took off down the stairs, glaring at us over her shoulder the whole time. I just smiled back at her (good for me – I think!).
I found myself all shaky and out of sorts for quite a while afterward. We all laughed it off – “what a crazy lady!” “Don’t come to Ikea if you don’t want to see kids!” But I was reminded of what a hard time I have dealing with conflict.
Being off work on mat leave means that I really don’t have to deal with conflict on any kind of regular basis. Dealing with conflict in a head-on way is something that has been a challenge for me my whole life. I really have to work myself up to it, and it has to be something big and important for me to get confrontational.
Due to the nature of my career (community development, mainly with youth) I have had to deal with conflict on a regular basis, and I do it pretty well, on the job. As long as I can prepare ahead of time, I’m alright. I visualize the conversation, breathe deeply beforehand, prepare myself for a worst-case-scenario. It’s the unexpected conflicts that get me.
How well do you deal with conflict? Is it no big deal, or are you like me? Do you have any tips for me?
Now I’m thinking about work, and going back to work, or not going back to work… that’s definitely a whole different post!