July 7, 2023

Conflict Avoidance: 7 Reasons we Avoid Conflict & What to do Instead.

“When we aren’t curious in conversations we judge, tell, blame and even shame, often without even knowing it, which leads to conflict.” ~ Kirsten Siggins


Conflict is inevitable.

No matter where you are or what you do, you are bound to find yourself in some debate, argument, or a full-fledged conflict at some point or the other.

At times conflict is completely meaningless and avoidable. Yet, there are times when it isn’t. You cannot get away with it and must brace yourself to take things head-on.

Even though we know that conflict will be a part and parcel of our lives in some form or the other, at a deeper level we don’t really want to get into it.

I mean, we all want an easygoing, comfortable, hassle-free life, right? However, we also know that if the need arises, we will do what needs to be done.

From that standpoint, conflict is something to be handled or resolved as and when needed.

Problems begin to arise when we view conflict as something we should run away from—all the time.

If the mere mention or thought of a potential clash or conflict with someone sets you off then it means there is a lot going on under the surface.

Typically, when we are triggered by conflict, it shows up as:

>> Anxiety
>> Agitation
>> Feeling of dread or panic
>> A tendency to shut down or avoid any kind of controversial situation
>> Being flooded by memories of past conflicts
>> A strong sense of self-doubt

This simply means that conflict for you is not just an unpleasant experience; it also brings out all your past baggage, trauma, and makes you feel completely powerless and helpless even by the mere thought of it.

It puts you in high conflict avoidance zone where you might:

>> Avoid, ignore, deflect important or potentially heavy conversations
>> Defer or delay bringing up or addressing important topics, fearing it may lead to conflict
>> Focus your attention on conjuring up all worst-case scenarios and how to avoid them
>> Think more from the other person’s standpoint than your own
>> Engage in silent treatment
>> Keep yourself so busy that you don’t have time to get into any debates or discussions
>> Leave conversations midway
>> Give vague or ambiguous answers
>> Comply easily with the demands of others
>> Refrain from expressing your own opinions and views
>> Shut down

While these strategies enable you to avoid anything controversial in the moment, they extract a huge cost in the long term.

This avoidance indicates that your relationship with conflict is more than unpleasant and has always been. It tells you that your past experiences with conflict and chaos have cast an indelible impression on your mind and you want to avoid it because of everything that it activates within you.

Here are some things that conflict may bring up for you if you tend to be high on conflict avoidance:

1. Feelings of inadequacy and helplessness. Conflict makes you feel that you are incapable of handling uncertain, unpredictable, and volatile situations. Any inability to support yourself in the past serves as the evidence that you just can’t deal with it.

2. Feeling unsafe. It triggers feelings of being unsafe and makes you want to do just about anything to protect yourself.

3. Fear of being misunderstood. Not being understood psychologically and emotionally can bring up a lot of emotional pain because being understood by another serves as the validation for our entire being.

4. Fear of being unaccepted. Conflict makes you afraid that your ideas, views, and emotions will not be understood and accepted by people around you. This, then, forces you to do whatever you can to avoid it just so that you can also avoid this unpleasant feeling.

5. Fear of upsetting another. Maybe you paid a huge price in the past when you upset someone and that’s a cost that you don’t want to pay again.

6. Fear of being humiliated. Yes, conflict can get extremely nasty. While no one wants to experience this, for some people humiliation is a deep-seated wound that hurts like hell.

7. Fear of being abandoned. Conflict can and will trigger your abandonment wounds.

With so many fears that surround the experience of conflict, it makes sense to run in the opposite direction. Sigh…only if things were so simple and straightforward in life.

The fact is that in order to be ourselves, we need to be able to find a solid ground, stand on it, and fight from it if needed because if we don’t, then we might give away our power.

While conflict is not something that needs to or should be a daily occurrence, we need to be able to handle and resolve it whenever the situation demands.

“To practice the process of conflict resolution, we must completely abandon he goal of getting people to do what we want.” ~ Marshall B. Rosenberg

If we don’t, then we subject ourselves to a life that is deprived of our own voice.

It ensures that a mountain of all possible issues is created and then it’s too much and too late to resolve so much.

Therefore, no matter the baggage that we carry, we must find a way to resolve what needs to be resolved instead of letting it fester and erode our life at various levels.

Resolution is about creating room for expression and solution in the best way possible.

“Conflict resolution starts by sharing your experience without blame or shame and staying calm enough to listen to theirs.” ~ Anonymous

For this to happen, we need to:

>> Look at how our past has contributed to our relationship with conflict and reshape that to suit the present
>> Learn effective skills to navigate and handle conflict or difficult situations
>> Build a culture of self-understanding and love for ourselves so that we can honor our needs, desires, emotions, and boundaries
>> Develop a sense of where we need to take conflict head-on and where we can let it go
>> Become better at perspective taking so that we can consider multiple sides of a situation or event
>> Hold our triggers with compassion. They won’t just die down or go away instantly. They will take time and so will you

At the end of the day, being able to stand in the face of a difficult situation enables you to build resilience as well. And that’s something we all need to cultivate.

“Avoiding a problem doesn’t solve it.” ~ Bonnie Jean Thornley


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