The warrior’s waiting game
We think of men as fighters but most prefer to wait conflict out, says Lee Suckling. After all, why make an enemy when you might need a friend in the future?
I hate conflict and actively avoid it whenever possible. Sometimes it’s inescapable though, and perhaps most difficult when it’s between you and another man.
Some guys – myself included, I’ll readily admit – think the best approach is to retreat, stop communicating for a while and let the problem disappear over time.
This is a sort of insurance policy we have, according to a Harvard University study. When something goes awry between two men, we don’t like to sever all ties. We prefer to keep our distance and wait the problem out, careful not to burn bridges in case we need something from our adversary in the future.
This is dubbed the “male warrior hypothesis”. After conflict, according to the research, men like to broker good feelings with each other, for if and when they need allies to defend their group.
I’m sure many would argue that avoiding conflict, instead of resolving it is a good way to let things fester and worsen. I agree when it comes to romantic relationships. But when something arises between, say, brothers, friends or male colleagues, I’m in the “time heals (almost) everything” camp.
I’ve certainly applied this approach more than once – when I get miffed at a mate because one (or both) of us had done something stupid, I usually don’t bring it up with them, but rather let time pass, grudges fade and the intensity of the emotions fall away.
I’m doing this right now. In recent weeks I’ve become fed up with a male friend whose approach to the world is increasingly self-involved. I found myself quietly seething, for example, when I tried to talk about a problem in my family the other day and he somehow ended up making the conversation all about him and his relationships. But I’m not going to bring this up with him; I’m simply going to see him less frequently until he doesn’t grate me any more. Naturally, this approach doesn’t really work when one party does something malicious. In such scenarios you really only have two choices: fight or flight. Otherwise you may hold onto the hurt for a long time. Maybe even forever. It seems cowardly to take the “flight” option (ie, never contacting them again and deleting them from your life), but I think it’s best in some cases. I did this twice two years ago, in the first instance because a mate royally screwed me over and deserted me on an overseas trip, and later because I refused to be a part of keeping another friend’s infidelity secret. Warrior hypotheses aside, sometimes men do things to each other that aren’t worthy of forgiveness. I think it’s OK to cut someone off if you don’t think they can be a force for good in your life any more. Call me callous, but I’d rather forget those people, and focus my time, energy, and attention on others who deserve it.