In any aspect of our lives, we would come across conflict. Be it in the workplace, family, between friends and even some random stranger on the street; conflict will inevitably occur. However, there are people who cannot handle conflict; in the event that an argument or disagreement arises, they look for all possible ways to avoid it, be it by being passive aggressive, changing the subject or even completely removing themselves from the conversation so that peace – or what seems to be like it – reigns. If you have noticed this reoccurring behavior, they – or you – may be conflict avoidant.
Conflict avoidance is described as a method of reacting to conflict in a manner that completely avoids the issue at hand. This could involve deflecting, changing the subject, or not even bringing up the conversation at all. In the right doses, conflict avoidance is good; some may also go as far as saying, necessary. Being battle ready all the time and always spoiling for fights can be stressful. Sometimes it can be helpful to let go or overlook certain things especially in relationships where one has to compromise. But when this is a reoccurring event, it becomes a problem.
There are many things that could make someone conflict avoidant. It could be trauma from childhood with parents who are short-tempered, bullies and are verbally abusive. This could trigger anxiety in a child, and it leaves emotional scars. It could also be from friends and siblings. Children who are not naturally assertive become vulnerable to bullying by their peers and siblings. As adults, conflicts trigger near panic attacks with symptoms such as sweating and rapid heartbeat. Instead of facing conflicts head-on, you resort to tactics such as denial and repression.
From the workplace to relationships, knowing how to respond to and deal with conflict is a valued skill. Avoiding them is not going to help anyone in the long run. There are sure signs that can let you know if you or someone you know may know is conflict avoidant, and they include:
1. You have a deep fear for displeasing people
People who are conflict avoidant have a personality that likes to please people. While this may not necessarily be a bad thing, in extreme cases the consequences can be terrible. Conflict evokes a deep fear of not wanting to displease or piss people off, of not wanting to be seen as a contrarian. To the conflict avoidant, enduring or overlooking a bad situation instead of thrashing it out is far better than fighting about it. The conflict avoidant convinces himself that his opinions and feelings about the matter are inconveniences in the grand scheme of things.
2. You employ tricks to pull out of arguments
Be it denial, passive aggression, throwing in jokes, changing the subject or even depersonalization, the conflict avoidant will use any means to manoeuvre his way out of a fight whether consciously or unconsciously.
3. You pile up annoyances
Since conflict avoiders overlook things and swallow the problem at hand, it becomes very easy for resentment to build. Resentment is a hell of a drug is expected that these grievances and problems will keep piling up, validating the resentment, until one day you shatter at the most inappropriate time. This behavior is called “Gunnysacking”, a psychological term used to describe piling up annoyances instead of resolving it. You may convince yourself that you are the bigger person in overlooking problems, but this is unhealthy in the long run. Facing annoyances head on instead of piling it up and giving excuses is the best way to go.
4. You endure injustice just to avoid a fight
Have you ever been in a situation where you are at disadvantage because you avoided a good fight? For example, you are being cheated off you change at the market, but because you do not want to be seen as a troublemaker, you let it go. If you do this, then you are an example of a conflict-avoidant person. You are a human being deserving of your rights, and if you feel they are trampled upon, then you have to speak up and do something about it. Complaining to other people can only do so much.
5. You struggle with expressing yourself
Disagreements usually involve communicating ourselves to the opposite party when we feel they have slighted us. However, if you come from a background that disregard and silences your opinions and feelings; that constant dismisses or criticizes you, you may find struggling with being assertive about your emotions. For example, the recent #MeToo movement was borne out of women’s refusal to be silent about the rape and abuse suffered at the hands of men for centuries.
Women are expected to be demure, calm and silent; deviation from the norm is frowned upon by society. This, in turn, reinforces conflict avoidant behavior in women where they are socialized to turn the other cheek whenever a man is being sexist and misogynistic as opposed to challenging him.
6. You procrastinate
Instead of facing conflict as soon as they come up, you postpone the engagement and to save face. You tell yourself “We will talk about this later”, “Now is not the right time” and you keep doing this until you never do. Sometimes immediate action requires an immediate reaction, postponing addressing a problem will not do you any good.
Overcoming conflict avoidant behavior may prove challenging at first. You have to continually watch for cues where you may be avoiding conflict and reorient yourself to ways that you can express yourself eloquently, but it will be worth it. Challenging your pesky neighbor with his loud music that does not allow you to sleep at night is a start.