I’ve realised that I’ve been avoiding writing an article about avoiding conflict. I mentioned writing about this subject months ago (see my post of 1st February 2013 – ‘Conflict, Part 1 – Winning At All Costs’) but somehow haven’t got around to actually sitting down and doing it. I wonder why that might be?!
For some of us, entering into conflict with someone else or being around others in conflict can feel very scary and unsettling. In order to avoid the possibility of experiencing painful feelings of helplessness and fear, we will do anything to make the conflict go away. We might refuse to engage in an argument, leave the room or try to placate the other person by agreeing to their demands when we actually don’t want to. Sometimes, we might be in real danger and refusing to engage or leaving the room may be necessary. However, if we are a habitual avoider of all conflict we might end up in situations where our own needs and preferences remain unspoken or the person with whom we are at odds becomes increasingly frustrated and confused. As a result, our self-esteem and relationships suffer.
What leads us to avoid conflict?
There may be a number of reasons why we habitually avoid conflict. We might have grown up in a family where the adults repeatedly avoided conflict themselves. Or, as children, we might have witnessed conflict between adults that was frightening or confusing. Perhaps we experienced conflict as something that leads to being abandoned (from a child’s perspective, being abandoned is a threat to their very survival) or ‘bad things’ happening. In short, we may not have learnt that some conflict is inevitable – even welcome – and that it can be dealt with in healthy ways that lead to compromise and the sharing of responsibility.
Counselling can provide a place where you can explore how you currently handle conflict and consider alternative ways of stating your needs, negotiating effectively and keeping both yourself and others emotionally safe.
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