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?

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - PERSPECTIVES -

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.