Just because I decide to engage with someone does not mean I am obligated to accept abuse.

I think that’s one of the scariest things about the possibility of conflict. That the person I’m interacting with will get angry or rebellious or defensive or insulting. That I will be attacked. That my garden walls will be breached and my garden flooded with poison.

Abuse is always a possibility.

And it can blindside us.

That’s where anticipation comes in.

Anticipation is an amazingly powerful thing. On the one hand, it allows us to prepare for the worst. On the other hand, it has this strange effect of somehow telegraphing to scary people that we’re ready for them. Which can prevent them from acting out in the first place.


But that’s the effect of anticipation. The act of anticipating can look something like this:

  • wondering about triggers — what might set you off? what might set somebody else off?

  • practicing responses — what can you say or do when someone (including yourself) appears to be triggered?

  • visualizing scenarios — picture the interaction moment to moment as you would have it happen

  • gathering allies — who can back you up? what can you ask them to do ahead of time, given what you anticipate might happen?

  • giving yourself permission — to say what you have to say; to fall silent; to breathe and re-center yourself; to make a guess; to leave

  • cultivating compassion — for yourself as well as for your relational partner

Abuse has no place anywhere. Not in conflict. Not in engagement. Not in you. Not in someone else.

It is bad for everyone.

Betsy BurrisComment