Avoiding Conflict and Ending Conflict

assume-the-position_fade_whiteThe other day I was in a conversation with an old friend, and some new acquaintances who I would most likely never see again. We were jawing away about rock and roll. Twice I tossed out bits of pertinent trivia, and twice I was quickly told by one of the acquaintances that I was wrong. Both times I knew I was right, and both times I backed off immediately.

The next day I was walking with my friend. He had done some research since the day before.

“You were right,” he said. “Joni Mitchell did write the song Woodstock, and Bill Bruford did drum for Genesis on their first post-Gabriel tour.”


“So why didn’t you call that asshole out yesterday when he said you were wrong? You’re always avoiding conflict. You should show some balls when you know you’re right.”

“Okay, as a favor to you, I’ll give you some conflict. You’re wrong.”

“That’s more like it!” He laughed. “Please hammer me some more!”

“I don’t avoid conflict,” I said. “Actually what I do is just the opposite. Avoiding conflict is easy. What I do is much harder. I end it.”

“Oh please do explain.”

“Avoiding conflict is what a bullfighter does. He sees the conflict coming, and he moves out of the way. If a bullfighter were to stand still, and face the bull as the bull charges, and allow himself to be impaled and killed, that would be ending the conflict. When a person charges at me with words and ideas that are in conflict with mine, I just stand there. But it’s different than bullfighting in that words and thoughts don’t draw blood, so when I end a conflict, nobody gets hurt. Which is kind of the whole point.”

“That’s ridiculous.”



  • PokerMonk Posted August 27, 2008 6:27 pm

    Very nice.
    I guess than that what I do is really ridiculous,
    I just agree with the villian: “I guess you are right”. That might be taking it too far, but it minimizes everyones suffering from my experience.

  • jude Posted August 28, 2008 12:19 pm

    L O V E Y O U !
    this is SO the curse of the angeloclass. right up there with voiceOgawd syndrome.
    just cracking up here & being so glad of you.
    you lil semienlightened lil shit you.

    and THAT spells your name for the day:
    :->! suchamood…

  • Henri Posted August 29, 2008 5:20 am

    When you back off what do you do?

    I usually just agree or switch the subject or something 😉

  • Anna Paradox Posted September 4, 2008 9:40 am

    This is a good example of keeping all your options in play. It’s easy, especially in rambunctious company like political activists or poker players, to get high on righteous indignation and forget that agreeing or no longer responding to people who disagree with you is always in the set of options.

    Ending or avoiding conflict are particularly good options when there’s no chance of learning. If you and your opponent hold opposing views and are unlikely to change, there are better uses for your time.

    So, championing the ending of conflicts is the right medicine where there is too much conflict, and the alternative has been forgotten.

    At a higher level, it’s about choosing where to engage.

    So, I’d like to offer this quote from David Brin: “The adversarial process — the tug and push of contrary views — helps us to improve, both as individuals and as a culture. Criticism is the only known antidote to error — elites shunned it, and their evasion spread ruin across history. We do each other a great favor (though it’s not always appreciated) when we help find each others’ mistakes.”

    He also has a long article about when and what sort of structure it requires to make conflict beneficial at: http://www.davidbrin.com/disputationarticle1.html

    Respectfully yours,

  • Bill Reich Posted September 22, 2008 10:20 am


    I generally like the approach you took and often take it myself. But someone not crediting Joni Mitchell!!

    THAT would annoy me. I still might not say anything but…

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  • free magazine websites Posted April 29, 2010 5:27 pm

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