Conflict avoidance is when a person does not deal with the conflict at hand. Instead, they use other tactics to avoid the issue.
Conflict avoidance can manifest in many situations, whether it be personal relationships or in the workplace. People tend to use it in order to suppress an unpleasant encounter.
There are many ways of doing this, including ignoring the conflict, changing the subject, shutting down or even pretending it isn’t happening.
Conflict avoidance can be classified into three different types:
Those who ignore the problem
Probably the most common methods of avoiding conflict is to simply ignore the problem. This way, you don’t have to deal with any of the outcomes. For example, a husband who suspects his wife is cheating on him might choose to ignore it, as if it came to light there’s a danger his wife might leave him.
Those who change the subject
Diverting attention away from the conflict is another method of conflict avoidance. It usually happens when one person does not want to face the conflict and chooses to focus on another problem instead.
Those who shut down
You know those people that seem to shut down when you try to engage with them? It’s even more irritating when the conflict needs to be resolved in a speedy fashion. The problem with shutting down is that it can make the situations worse.
There are some situations where it is best to use conflict avoidance. But at the end of the day, it is usually better to try and overcome it and deal with the conflict at hand.
Why is it important to deal with conflict avoidance
If we constantly avoid conflict, then we are essentially suppressing our emotions. There have been lots of research to suggest that this is not healthy.
By pushing down our feelings of constantly avoiding conflict, it is more than likely that they will surface elsewhere as anxiety or anger and when you least expect it. Tensions can rise and bubble over in other areas of your life when it is not appropriate for them to come out. And if you keep avoiding conflict, this is going to happen more regularly than not.
Avoidance can create fear
Constantly avoiding conflict teaches the brain, in a negative way, that this is what is keeping us safe from unpleasant feelings. The problem is that by avoiding the conflict, we are only putting off what we need to do.
By avoiding it, the feelings of relief we get are negatively reinforcing our avoidance. But although this feels good at the time, because we don’t have to deal with the problem, in the long run, it increases our fears as we’re not dealing with it.
The best way to deal with conflict is to face it and face the problem. Then we are not storing up fearful emotions and trauma for the future.
Avoiding conflict means we are usually missing opportunities, not just for personal growth but in life too. If we become fearful of dealing with issues, we are stunting our personal growth.
Dealing with conflict is a chance for change and growth and stops us stagnating. We can also miss opportunities as our fears of conflict can become irrational and cause phobias. This can be restrictive in our everyday lives and stop us from living a fulfilling life.
How to deal with conflict avoidance
There are situations in which the avoidance conflict style can work well. For instance, if you don’t have the time to devote to the problem, by calming the situation down or by allowing yourself time to properly deal with the matter.
However, conflict, as a rule, should not be avoided or ignored. It is a chance to resolve disagreements and come to some sort of resolution. Leaving conflicts unresolved can lead to frustration and pent-up emotions. It also means that you are essentially trapped in that situation and cannot move on.
The key is to know when to avoid conflict and when to confront it. Understanding why you avoid conflict is also important as it can give you valuable insights into your own character. Do you lack self-confidence or have low self-esteem? Are you worried about the emotions it will release or are you afraid of hurting other people’s feelings?
Dealing with conflict on a regular basis will only make you more confident and able to deal with future issues.