A Guy’s Guide to Handling Conflict

handling conflict

In my life I’ve noticed two extremes: men who compulsively avoid conflict, and those who seem to seek it out. Obviously, neither strategy is very good. For this article, I’d like to talk about the types of conflict we encounter in our day-to-day lives, and how deal with each situation. This way, you’ll be better prepared the next time you have to show your teeth against a rival, and handling conflict can then become a skill you can truly adopt.

Friend to Friend Conflict

The Situation: A friend has pissed you off by owing you money, messing up your schedule, or otherwise being thoughtless.

In this case, in my experience, it’s best to be direct and forceful among friends. You must place strong barriers around yourself, even against people you know very well. If you don’t do this, it’s possible to get severely walked over. Most friends you keep should be equitable and honest people, but every now and then somebody enters our lives that continually “pushes the envelope” and tries to get away with as much as possible without being caught. It’s an unfortunate part of their personalities.

These types of people are used to being disciplined by getting yelled at. In fact, throughout their whole lives parents, peers and bosses have grounded them or punished them for misbehavior. This is, unfortunately, the only way to keep them in line. You’ll know these types of people due to their relative indifference to being yelled at. Whereas most people feel sensitive about being yelled at, these sorts expect you to give them hell.

If you don’t create a strong personal boundary, you’ll be indirectly inviting them into your private space to assert their control over your life. You don’t want this to happen. You have to stand up for yourself.

Employee to Boss Conflict

The Situation: You have a condescending, jackass supervisor who puts you down.

This is one of the trickiest conflict scenarios I can think of. Sometimes we encounter low quality people who become drunk off the slightest amount of power. What these people are doing is blurring the lines between professionalism and high-school clique behavior. You’ll notice jackass supervisors keep an inner circle of their “preferred” employees, sometimes even based on things like age or race, and outsiders are treated like dirt.

The solution is a bit complicated: you have to establish strong workplace value by ensuring your numbers are soaring. If it’s retail, maximize your customer service and sales. If it’s project development, be the most efficient guy in the office.

At this point, the jackass supervisor’s sway over you becomes less strong, especially if management above him notices your hard work. When you’ve leveraged some of your own power, you can begin standing up for yourself more strongly.

If the harassment continues, you may have to go “nuclear”: jeopardize your own employment by calling him out to upper management, file a report of workplace discrimination, or if the situation is unfixable—give your two weeks notice and let upper management figure out why their branch manager is causing good employees to quit.

AMOG in Bar Conflict

Here’s one of my favorite situations for handling conflict.

Situation: when a “bro” in a bar (or the famous acronym: Alpha Male of the Group) tries to devalue you. I notice venues with high ratios of vacationing frat-boys have the highest incidence of AMOGs, such as Venice Beach, LA and Pacific Beach, SD.

9 times out of 10 it’s because the AMOG considers you a sexual threat. When you go into a bar or club and you start approaching / talking to women, you’re going to get tooled. Their rationale is to out-frame you, and make you appear low-value to the eyes of the women they’re competing for.

The Solutions: There’s a number of fun ways to handle this, and all of them involve negating the frame they’re trying to oppose. The WRONG way to handle this is by responding defensively, and even worse is to respond offensively. For instance, when a big, dumb dude AMOGs another big, dumb dude, it usually results in a bar-fight. That’s never what you want. Instead, my favorite technique is to radically misinterpret their frame and remain completely non-reactive.

AMOG: “Hey bro, you look kind of like that guy from Harry Potter, what’s his name, Ron Weasley?”

You (to AMOG): “Definitely garden salad sandwiches are my favorite, number two is probably tuna.”

AMOG: ??

One weakness to this approach is that you’re still responding to him versus simply blocking him out. Most of the time it’s better to just plow past their taunts:

AMOG: “Hey bro, can you hold my drink while I go take a piss?” (an attempt at frame control).

YOU: “Cool, man” (return to conversation with girl)

AMOG (now angry): “You’re a little dick sucker aren’t you.”

YOU: “Respect, man,” (return to conversation with girl)

AMOG: (now furious because he looks like the over-reactive tool. He will typically back off because he doesn’t want to be seen getting thrown out of the bar if he gets physical. You win.)

Handling Conflict When You’re the Boss

The Situation:: if you’re in a position of authority, you will have to frequently flex your authority over subordinates. However, this can be very tricky, because you don’t want to be the “jackass manager” mentioned previously.

This type of conflict depends on the type of situation. If it’s purely professional, such as you need to enhance performance levels, then always KEEP it professional by never taking your criticism to a personal level. Always use collective terminology: “we” “the company”, etc.

“I think we can really boost this month’s numbers if we take a new approach” is a good way to issue a directive to a less than optimal employee. A statement like: “Unfortunately, we gotta crack down on lower numbers, so I need you to pay attention to these next ideas” will direct it towards the person and make it clear that you desire better performance, without making it seem like their character is flawed.

Furthermore, if the employee really is trying their best, don’t subject him or her to the psychological punishment of “We need to talk” and making an unspecified meeting time. Try to keep it casual, on-the-spot, or reserve criticism for weekly performance meetings that are scheduled. In addition, recognize his or her accomplishments, as well. Don’t just focus on the negative.

However, there is another type of employee to beware of, and it’s the exact same person mentioned previously in the “friend to friend” conflicts. It’s the employee who tries to get away with as much as he or she can. As in your personal life, these people require constant punishment or they will instantly revert to their old pattern of behavior.

You can identify these unruly types because, as in your social circle, they ONLY respond to harsh words and the pressure of authority. Anything less than this, and they’ll begin to step on you. These types of people represent the minority, but identify who they are, and gauge your behavior around them. Reserve your strictest attitude for dealing with them.

Angry Dude You Barely Know Wants to Kill You

The Situation: There are some really disturbed, crazy people in the world, and when you meet a lot of faces, you’ll eventually enter a situation where somebody wants to hurt you, or even kill you, because of some hair—trigger reason.

Defer to martial artists: try to defuse the situation first. Don’t incite the guy whatsoever. If he puts a fist in your face or gets physical, do not respond with your own attack unless you truly feel threatened. The reason is because you ultimately want the cops to haul only him away, not the both of you.

By staying collected, with your head-on, you’ll be in a better tactical situation if you DO need to subdue him by striking him someplace where it really hurts. A guy who’s boiling with rage is less likely to win in a fight versus someone who’s calm and collected.

Next, don’t hesitate to call 911. If your temperament is very cool, and the offender is going nuts, I promise you the cops will defer to your judgment and most likely remove the guy from the situation and thank you for your cooperation and responsible management of the situation.

In Summary

So, now we know about handling conflict in a variety of situations. Keep in mind there are other areas of conflict to discuss; such as business conflict and how to go on the offensive when dealing with competitors. However, for now, these examples should give a nice roundabout guide for handling various interpersonal situations that otherwise frustrate or confuse socially untrained guys.