Overcoming Conflict Avoidance

I took a conflict-management class in my undergrad. On the first day of class, the teacher asked us to draw our own depictions of conflict. I proceeded to excitedly draw a picture of two giant monsters fighting to the death. I later looked over at another classmate’s picture and saw them drawing two people sitting at a table. I thought to myself, “Oops. Did I misunderstand the assignment?”

Nope. I’m just terrified of conflict!

Us conflict avoiders tend to be people-pleasers. We often would rather just let the issue go for the sake of keeping the peace than say how we really feel. There’s often a fear that if we say our real thoughts, we won’t be validated, loved, or accepted. Unfortunately, repeatedly not speaking up for ourselves can lead to a buildup of anxiety, resentment, and low self-esteem, as well as missed opportunities and mistreatment from others.

Consider the following tips to handle conflict more effectively: 

Reflect on Your Avoidance – Challenge the assumptions you have about conflict. Conflict itself is simply a disagreement or incompatibility of some kind, which is a natural result of living on this earth with billions of other unique individuals. Conflict does not have to be a negative or destructive experience. It can be seen as an opportunity to figure out a new, mutually fulfilling solution. Sometimes a quick, uncomfortable conversation is all that’s needed to avoid long-term hardship and stress.

Write Out a Script – Sometimes, planning out what you want to say and practicing ahead of time can make moments of confrontation a bit easier. I know for myself, I can freeze up when it comes to voicing my needs if I haven’t thought about what I want to request beforehand. This method can also ensure that you are clear in your communication, which minimizes the likelihood of misunderstandings.

For extra encouragement when prepping for the conversation, consider the following affirmations:

  • “Authenticity is more important than the comfort of others.”
  • “Voicing my needs is self-care”
  • “I am not responsible for the reactions of others”
  • “I am enough to have this conversation”

Acknowledge Your Efforts – For us conflict avoiders, this is HARD stuff. Give yourself a high-five for any kind of step toward overcoming your avoidance. Improving upon your assertive communication may feel like you’re making yourself less likable, but if you think about it, those who are confident enough in themselves to stand up for their needs are super respectable (I want to be friends with those people)! The more you do it, the easier it will likely get, and the more you’ll likely see improvements in your relationships and your well-being.

You’ve got this. Your worth is more than your ability to accommodate!

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