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How to Overcome Conflict Avoidance

Conflict is not fun; it would be wonderful if all of us were able to resolve issues without any conflict. Unfortunately, life has conflict. The people who are successful and generally happy are able to handle conflict with people in their life and find a successful resolution. There are a lot of talented, intelligent people whose life and success are restricted because they are unable to have difficult conversations and choose to avoid them.

Conflict-avoidance is when we know we need to face a problem with someone and get it resolved, but we are afraid of the conversation and choose to delay or even run away from it completely. In our mind we hope that things will get better with time or if we delay it long enough, we won’t have to be the one to resolve it. The problem when we avoid it, the problem becomes worse. The choice is to either go for the short-term peace with avoidance or go for the long-term solution that will make life better for you.

Here are some tips to help you overcome conflict avoidance:

Deal with your anxiety. Most of the time, we hide from conflict for an illogical or irrational reason. An example is if you believe you will die if you have the conversation. Likely not going to happen therefore it is an irrational fear. We avoid conflict for emotional reasons that reveal themselves as anxiety. Figure out exactly what drives your anxiety because fear always has a focus. Some common sources of anxiety are:

  • Rejection: Fear of someone ending the relationship if you upset them by bringing up the problem.

  • Anger: Afraid that the person will become angry if we bring up the issues. Or we are afraid that we do not know how to deal with their anger, and we will become frightened or overwhelmed.

  • Guilt: Afraid that we are the bad guy, because we accept all the responsibility for the problem, instead of accepting our actual contribution.

  • Loss of control: Being afraid that we might say or do something we will regret.

There are other sources of anxiety that get in our way to having difficult conversations and we do not have space here to go into these, but often, talking it out with a mature person or a registered psychotherapist can be a great help. The point is, what ever the fear, don’t let it paralyze you or prevent you from having the conversation and finding a solution.

Think through the conversation. Research shows that we do better in conflict when we have thought out what we want to say. This helps us to stay focused and not become confused. Write out a brief script and memorize it or roll play it with a trusted friend. Then the conversation will run more smoothly, and you will be able to have more eye contact which will result in higher connection.

Affirm the other person. Conflict resolves more effectively when it begins and ends with authentic affirmation and care. The whole reason you want a resolution is because you respect the other person and want to remain in the relationship. Conveying at the beginning and reminding them at the end that you are for them, not against them will create a team approach to finding the solution.

Know when to stop the conversation. Some people readily deal with conflict, when they are approached, and navigate it with truth, respect and love. They are able to navigate these conversations well with you. Others react in anger, victim statements, intense emotions, blame and excuses. When the conversation turns from progress to reactions that are hurtful, it is time to walk away. The hard part about this is to remember that the conflict still needs resolution so you will need to resume the conversation at another time.

Conflict is not pleasant but moving through it effectively will benefit you and move you towards success.


Registered Psychotherapist

519-601-HELP (4357)

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