Three ways of ‘walking away’ from conflict

An important choice to always consider is “walking away” from a conflict. However, there are at least three types of “walking away”.

First, there is “walking away, try to leave it behind”. This involves attempting to skip out on the conflict itself. This often leaves us with an unsatisfactory hole in our experience, and the conflict keeps pining on us. This attitude often results in long term stress or trauma, and can lead to a skewed perspective on past events. Unfortunately, it’s advocated by many counselors, mistakenly assumed to be an effective solution, discounting the long term repercussions.

Second, there is “walking away, come back later”. This is the realization that we’re not up to the conflict at hand at this moment, or the conflict scenario is itself not matured enough to be dealt with right now. Walking away gives space for us to breath, regain composure, reflect, gain clarity on what we seek, and realize a greater context. Further it allows other parties the same. Later, when ready, we can return to the source of conflict.

Third, there’s “walking away, nothing more left”. This is walking away when a conflict has ripened, when there is no more charge around the original issue, no more expression to be made, no more lessons to learn, or no more actions to be taken. This is the natural transcendence of conflict. It should be noted that many problems actually occur when we stay behind and don’t walk away from a matured conflict. Sometimes we stay in relationships we’ve outgrown or situations that no longer serve us or others. Not recognizing this peak can not only keep us stuck in life situations, but also lead to unnecessary tensions.

Walking away is a legitimate step to take in dealing with conflict. However, walking away in and of itself doesn’t mean a conflict is resolved. The converse is also true. Not walking away doesn’t necessarily mean that conflict is prevented. Having a clear sense of why we’re walking away is key.