The Black Widow Spider Approach to Conflict Resolution
You Do Not Always Have to Face the Conflict
The true nature of black widows contradicts common conceptions. First of all, they are quite clumsy outside of their web. This means that they are homebodies, reclusive and not likely to give chase. Neither are they very aggressive. They prefer escape over an attack.
They most commonly bite people out of self-defence. Even repeated poking was not enough to cause a bite. Moreover, black widows can learn — they can analyze repetitive types of threats and act accordingly.
Usually only accidentally sitting on or grabbing a black widow when reaching for something else can lead to a bite.
Why is that? All black widow spiders are venomous and use their venom to subdue and eat their prey. Their venom is vital to their survival and quite precious to them.
In other words, black widows usually sit, wait, think and act accordingly to the conflict. Is it better to run away, play dead, flick a few strands of silk at their attackers or bite?
Black widows do not try to win every fight by trying to win at any cost and bite straight away. Instead, black widows, even if potentially strong and lethal opponents, deliberately ignore or withdraw from conflicts when it is the better option which they benefit from more.
Hollywood Version of Victory in a Conflict
In the Hollywood version, there’s always a clear victor in a conflict. The victor takes it all.
But guess what? Real life is messier. Digging oneself out of conflict can be very difficult, especially if we are set on winning at any cost and we just keep pushing and pushing, to create a clear win for ourselves.
But sometimes winning can be achieved by seemingly losing. The solution is paradoxical, and it might feel like a kind of surrender — but it’s not. Sometimes you need to move to the side or even step away from the conflict and supposedly lose so you can redirect the energy to building something different and better for yourself.
Losing. Everyone hates it. Losing can make you feel out of control, or at the very least more vulnerable than you care to admit. What’s to love about being on the losing side?
Losing can be part of winning
If you hate to lose, this might sound a little strange: Losing isn’t the opposite of winning; it can be part of winning. It's about reframing the issue at hand. About deciding how much energy and time you want to invest in the conflict. Is the conflict worth fighting for? Will it cost you more to continue trying to resolve it, or can you walk away from it? Will that create better results?
Employ these black widow tactics to tackle conflicts:
- Play dead: Learn to recognize what you can change and accept what you cannot change. Pick your fights and conflicts carefully. No need to engage in every conflict that comes your way.
- Walk away: Learn to lose, even if it means cutting losses. Do not stay locked in a conflict just because you have already invested time, money and energy into trying to resolve it. Walking away from conflict is a solution too — somewhere, something and someone else is potentially better for you.
- Divert. I would not recommend flicking a few strands of silk at your "attacker", but you can certainly decide to divert the course. To distract yourself with another goal and objective. A more worthy pursuit, as opposed to fighting a lost battle just to win.
Just like the black widow, always think carefully about how much energy and other resources you need to invest to resolve the conflict and what it is really going to cost you in the long term.
About the author
Writing about well-being, self-care and psychology. Occassional poet and fiction writer. Based in Prague. Passionate about coffee, yoga, reading and Toastmasters. Native speaker of Czech, fluent in English (as a second language).