Over the past couple of years, Humanergy has engaged in some spirited discussion around this question: When you have a conflict with someone, can you really just “let it go?” Or, if something bugs you, should you address it every time?
Jeanne Brett in Harvard Business Review’s article, “When and How to Let a Conflict Go,” raises some good points. She advises not to have the conversation when you’re feeling very emotional. That makes sense, AND it is also true that many people need to at least schedule a time to follow up while they’re still embroiled in the feelings. Otherwise, it’s too easy to “let it go”….but still harbor some lingering frustration.
The conclusion we’ve come to is that disagreements don’t need to be addressed if they can be fully let go. If the conflict results in you “keeping score” or being wary in the future, you haven’t really let it go. Those situations must be addressed, as soon as reasonably possible.
What about the perennial question – “Why should I bother telling her, since she’ll never change?” We take some issue with Ms. Brett’s conclusion: “If you don’t think you can change something with the conversation, it may not be worth having.” This may be true in very limited situations, but understand that choosing to keep your frustrations to yourself has consequences for you and your relationship with the other person. Over time, resentment can build and result in an outburst that will seem disproportionate in intensity. At that point, the problem has become YOU, not the irritating person who refuses to change.
The moral of the story is to let it go only when you truly, completely can. Otherwise, deal with it with direct, honest and respectful communication.
Need some help with conflict? We’re here for you.
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