If you've read some of my other blog posts, you already know about my aversion to feeling angry. So I'm not going to bore you again with the details of it. (If you have no idea what I'm talking about, it's time for you to look back in the archives:) I am, however, going to bring up that because I hate feeling anger so much, I have spent a lot of time doing whatever I can to reduce my chances of having a confrontation. The fact of the matter is, I'm only one part of the equation, and therefore I don't have control over how the other part(s) of the equation react. As much as I try to keep communication with others free of uncomfortable and heightened responses, sometimes what starts out as a simple dialogue, can turn into a debate.
Personally, I believe that there are broad versions of both dialogue and debate. Some people tend to be very passive with their communication, not voicing their concerns or opinions and avoiding all conflict. While others tend to be aggressive in their approach to getting their point across. Somewhere on this spectrum, there is a healthy balance, where one is able to assertively and effectively state what it is they want, need, or feel while acknowledging the same of the other party involved. What becomes difficult, is when you have two (or more) people who have completely different styles of approach. Feelings of insecurity, doubt, frustration, defensiveness, misunderstanding, and hurt can turn what started as a simple conversation, into an all out war.
There have been instances where I see a dialogue I am having, heading straight for debate, and I immediately go into "How do I fix this?" mode. In most cases, it's selfish motivation...I want to avoid the discomfort of conflict altogether. Other times, it is because I know getting into a bitching battle is only going to derail the communication even further. Looking back on some uncomfortable interactions, I realize now that heading directly for "fix it" mode, is my attempt at covering up my own insecurities, and even my own contribution to a debate. It has been in those moments, that "fixing it" only perpetuates a situation, because I am either trying so hard to back peddle and right wrongs, or I lose focus on what the other person is saying, and end up creating further ammunition for the war.
What I realize is every interaction is an opportunity for me to learn. As many times as I have gone through the Interpersonal Effectiveness module in DBT, I have certainly not mastered it. I have stuck my foot in my mouth more times than I can count, and I've dug deeper holes trying to get out of them, but each time I do, I become more aware of my own reactions and contributions to the situation. I know I need to work more on staying in the moment while maintaining healthy boundaries, and less on trying to avoid confrontation and smoothing things over. What I have to remember, is that just as a dialogue can turn into a debate, debates can also turn into a dialogue, and result in a deeper understanding for all involved.