Expressing your needs and standing up for yourself are powerful attributes to carry with you in life. There are times to choose your battles, times when it’s worth the fight and times when it’s better to let things go.
Addressing conflict at the right time, and in effective ways, will help rather than hurt the situation. How do you know when to let go? There are little signs that it’s probably not worth a fight.
1. When It’ll Cause You to Cross a Line
Often, there is an unconscious moment where the line has been drawn and you’ve had enough. But it’s necessary to be aware of what “enough” means to you. What is your code of conduct or moral ethos?
In a journal, log examples of past fights that triggered you to react rather than respond. Ask yourself questions like these:
- Do you jump to another’s rescue, when they prefer to handle it?
- Are there examples of fights where you crossed a line in terms of your own behavior?
- How do you argue? How could you debate more constructively?
- What are you triggered by?
Measure the moment where things went wrong, and create actionable steps to not cross that line again by developing and preserving strong boundaries. For example, state that you need to think about the situation and need to step away. Then, step away to get perspective on the situation. When you know where the line is, based on your own moral ethos, you’ll know if it’s worth it, personally.
2. It’s Irrelevant in the Big Picture
Fast forward the situation a few days, weeks, months or years ahead, or as far as you require. You need distance to see all angles of the situation and how it affects you, others, and the world at large.
What are the ramifications of engaging in this fight? From a big picture perspective, is it honestly worth it in the long run? It’s probably not. Let it go.
3. You’re Taking It Personally
Sometimes, you’ll be accused of “taking it personally” or being too sensitive. If you’ve been through prior abuse or have a strongly empathic personality, you may be prone to internalizing what someone says in the heat of the moment.
It’s understandable to be hurt and want to say angry words back. Honestly, it’s okay to be angry, and the best action to take for yourself is to honor your emotions, without projecting. Simply walk away. Let yourself stew, but don’t dwell.
The rupture is not the issue — it’s the triggers. “Negative emotion” is easy to be seen as bad, making you feel bad in turn. When you know it’s okay to be upset and give yourself personal time to deal with it, the emotion won’t have as strong of a hold on you.
4. No One Is Focused on Seeking Solutions
Some people love to argue for the sake of arguing. In a debate setting, this can be fun! But when you’re poking the bear for the sake of poking the bear, it’ll likely get ugly. Argumentative personalities are on the defense and seek control, but it’s not worth it to engage.
Serious physical, emotional, or mental damage could result. What’s the goal of the argument? Why are you butting heads? Are you arguing in circles without seeking a solution?
If the argument is one-sided and won’t go anywhere, it’s definitely not worth the fight. Cut through the drama and the nonsense by asking your “opponent” one simple question: “What do you need?” If there’s something of substance to work with, follow up with, “How can I give you what you need?”
If worse comes to worst, channel your inner calm and say, “All is well.” This will set a strong boundary, and if you begin sounding like a broken record, the person fighting for the sake of fighting will eventually get bored and give up. It’ll no longer be worth it for them.
5. A Higher Authority Is Needed
You can feel the moment when an argument has gotten out of control, when it should never have reached that point in the first place. A higher authority may be necessary if you feel the situation has gotten out of hand.
You’re no longer in your element and are treading deep water. So, get a life jacket, learn how to swim, and get away from the danger! Call in the police, a medical professional, or human resources. Know when to seek counseling and outside perspectives for situations and psychology you can’t wrap your head around. Pick up a book or talk to an expert to learn more about the subject matter or topic you’re arguing. Realize when you need to let go of control because there’s no control left for you.
Choose your battles wisely. There’s a time to stand up for your personal ethos and voice your truth, and there are times when it won’t be important tomorrow or in the long run.
Honor yourself and your emotions without crossing the line. Know that even though it may not be worth the fight, you’ve won by holding your head high and keeping your boundaries intact.