At the end of the year, the concept of running or walking away seems like a good topic.
The standard adage is, “Running away never solves anything.”
When a conflict is centered in the space between two persons, the adage holds.
When the problem is competition, or aggression or incivility, by one or both parties, when the problem can be readily identified and described in a way that is clear to a third party, then yes, walking away will not solve it.
If you can say something like, “He hit me,” or “He stole from me,” then moving away will merely put the conflict on hold, and it will resurface in future interactions with, and about, the other party.
Pay me now, or pay me with interest later.
However, many conflicts are centered in our own hearts and minds, our perceptions and experiences, and another person can trigger a reaction that has nothing at all to do with that person. It’s bad enough when one party reacts this way, even worse when both do.
The pop psychology term for this is “personality conflict.”
The bottom line is that we hate in others what we hate in ourselves. Those quirky dislikes that you have say everything about you and almost nothing about the other.
When the conflict is located inside one participant, who is using the other person as a screen for projecting unsettled pain, then moving away will still not resolve anything.
Neither will standing toe-to-toe punching each other out. The actual target, the true “bad guy,” isn’t within arm’s reach.
When the real problem isn’t in the present time or immediate location then neither is the solution. You might as well step away. The temporary absence of conflict isn’t the same as peace but it’s as close as you can get sometimes.
Sometimes conflict emerges with a person who is willing and able to use more physical, social, economic, or verbal force than you.
This can be someone who has more actual power, but you can also be limited by your role, such as a sales associate who cannot yell back at a customer who is verbally aggressive, or a teacher who cannot hit back when hit by a student.
Those roles come with their unique, approved methods of self-defense. Moving away will not solve those problems, either.
The other person may interpret your moving away as weakness and thus resume the attack at your next encounter, but it will be the same attack that you experienced in the last encounter. You’ll have time to prepare an effective defense.
At the moment, your problem is that you are being attacked, and walking or running away will solve it.