Conflict Avoidance: 5 Harmful Effects and Ways to Overcome

People with conflict avoidance 1tend to stay away from fights and confrontations, even when the situation requires it. Nobody likes to fight with everyone just for the fun of it, but there are times when you can not back down without voicing your opinion, even if the other person disagrees with you.

Keeping it all inside you might make you feel safe for the time being, but it is bound to take a toll on your mental well-being in one way or another. Having conflict avoidance can interfere with your professional and personal relationships with friends, and family and even create a barrier in your relationship.

It is also not advisable to look for arguing at every opportunity available as that too is harmful to your well-being, as well as to others.

People with conflict avoidance often feel that there is no point arguing over a topic that can be resolved just by not speaking or making a point at all. They tend to get uncomfortable when presented with a situation where they have to get their point across.

But how do you know if you are conflict-avoidant or not? Below are some signs mentioned that can help you understand if you have conflict avoidance.

1. Signs of Conflict Avoidance

1.1. You Accept Everything

Let’s take an example, you and a classmate of yours are given a project for which you have worked very hard and given everything it. On the day of the presentation, your classmate takes all the credit and makes the teacher believe that your contribution was significantly small.

What would a person who does not have conflict avoidance do? They will tell their teacher the truth and will do everything to prove the same.

Whereas, a person having conflict avoidance would brush the whole thing off, making themselves believe that it hardly matters, whereas, in reality, it does matter.

1.2. Past Experiences with Conflicts

It is believed that an individual having conflict avoidance might have gone through some traumatic conflicts experienced in the past that have made them avoid fights at all costs.

Having a parent-child relationship where if the child voices their opinion were scolded very severely can also be one of the reasons that people develop conflict avoidance in the latter part of their life. If the parent resorts to beating up their child, it can become difficult for the child, as they will feel that keeping quiet is the only way forward.

1.3. Steering the Conflict Away

The one thing people with conflict avoidance are pro at is avoiding confrontation2 at all costs. When they see a fight incoming, their natural response is to get out of it, not how to get through it.

Starting talking about a new topic, brushing off the conversation as a joke, getting defensive, or just straight up leaving the room are some ways conflict-avoidant people steer the conflicts away.

1.4. Fear of Expressing Yourself

This sign comes as no surprise. What is a conflict? A conflict is where people put out a different perspective that they feel is correct. Only one person doesn’t need to be right in a fight, both can be wrong, and both can be right as well.

You would not know who is right or wrong unless you express yourself, and take a stand for yourself. If you are wrong in a fight, there should be no hesitation in accepting your mistake.

People with conflict avoidance sometimes also believe that their opinion is wrong, and they would waste everyone’s time by saying it out loud.

You cannot be 100 per cent right at all times, but not speaking your thoughts is just accepting your defeat without taking part in a competition.

You now have an idea about the behaviour of a conflict-avoidant person3. Let’s move on to how conflict avoidance is harmful to the person.

2. Harmful Effects Conflict Avoidance

  • By avoiding conflicts, you are making sure that your true feelings stay bottled inside yourself. Bottling up emotions is never a good option as they can affect your mental well-being negatively.
  • It is also found that premature death can be caused by keeping emotions bottled up inside yourself.
  • Instead of acknowledging the problem, avoiding it can cause distress, leading to anxiety, depression, and feelings of loneliness.
  • Having conflict avoidance can put a severe damper on work as well as personal relationships. The negative build-up could reach a maximum limit, forcing you to break down, a scenario that no one wants to experience.
  • Not having communication that is honest with anyone can lead you to fear getting intimate with other people.

The pattern of conflict avoidance should be broken down as early as possible in an individual’s life. Overcoming conflict avoidance would not be one daily process. Instead, it will be a slow process that will yield results gradually. Below are some ways in which conflict avoidance can be overcome.

3. Overcoming Conflict Avoidance

3.1. Understanding Conflicts

As mentioned before, a conflict is not always about being right or wrong; instead, at times, it is about standing up for yourself.

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Photo by Afif Kusuma on Unsplash

Do not shy away from doing so. Keep in mind that it will become a repeated occurrence if you let the other person walk over you once.

This can become a massive problem in the work environment as you can not show your weakness in front of people ready to do anything to achieve more.

The best way to move forward in a conflicted situation is to avoid blaming others. It can make people defensive and aggressive, which people with conflict avoidance do not want.

3.2. Relieve Stress

Nothing good comes out of doing things when stressed, and a conflict should not be resolved. You will say something that you do not mean, and the situation will escalate in no time.

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Photo by Elisa Ventur on Unsplash

The conflict or confrontation requires your full attention, which can only happen if you control your emotions and feelings.

Whenever you are feeling stressed, try some grounding techniques as they are a huge help in relaxing the mind quickly and effectively.

The most common grounding technique is using your senses; see, touch, hear, and smell.

Picturing or thinking about happy memories or things that make you happy can also help calm you down.

3.3. Be Prepared

People with conflict avoidance want to speak out but refrain from doing so, fearing that what they say is incorrect.

There are many situations where we can foresee that a conflict might arise and be prepared for these situations.

Make a plan according to it, and write down or memorize the points you would like to put across. You can not entirely predict how a two-sided conversation will go, but you can get your facts right, which will help you be confident during an argument.

Even if the confrontation does not go according to your plan, do not panic as you already have all the correct facts. Use them appropriately and wisely.

3.4. Manage your Emotions

The major problem associated with people having conflict avoidance is how easily they brush their feelings aside. They assume that their feelings are invalid and repress their emotions.

To avoid this from happening, the individuals having conflict avoidance should first respect their feelings and emotions. You should feel sadness, anger, or frustration without feeling guilty, and they are your emotions. No one will understand them if you do not understand them first.

When you come to the stage where you can manage your emotions well, the next step will be to express them. If you have learned to control your feelings, then expressing them will become an easy task.

3.5. Resolve Conflicts

Everyone in their mind has thoughts like- “Why did not I say that to his face?”, we have the whole confrontation planned out in our mind with possibly the best replies. The only problem? It stays all in the mind of people having conflict avoidance as they do not speak their minds.

Instead of having one-sided mind battles, try saying those thoughts out loud when it is necessary.

Try being assertive but not accusatory or defensive in a confrontation, and you will have no problem at all.

4. In the End

If you feel that conflict avoidance has started to take a toll on your mental well-being, consult a therapist. They can help with bottled-up emotions and make you realize the importance of standing up for yourself.

You can not ever be void of conflict avoidance, but understanding the importance of resolving the issues immediately and effectively can help you lead a healthy lifestyle. It also helps in communication with family, friends, co-workers, and partners.

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  1. Tjosvold, Deon, and Haifa F. Sun. “Understanding conflict avoidance: Relationship, motivations, actions, and consequences.” International Journal of Conflict Management 13.2 (2002): 142-164. ↩︎
  2. Hershcovis, M. Sandy, et al. “The effects of confrontation and avoidance coping in response to workplace incivility.” Journal of occupational health psychology 23.2 (2018): 163. ↩︎
  3. Roloff, Michael E., and Courtney N. Wright. “Conflict avoidance: A functional analysis.” Uncertainty, information management, and disclosure decisions. Routledge, 2015. 320-340. ↩︎

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