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6 Tips on How to Stop Being Conflict Avoidant

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Are you Conflict Avoidant? 


Was there a time when you disagreed with someone you care about, like deeply disagreed, but instead of saying that aloud you kept quiet? Was there a time when your lover, friend, a family member disrespected or offended you, but instead of speaking out, you suffered in silence and just hoped that the issue would go away? However, the issue didn't go away and kept happening, thus causing you to act passive-aggressive towards this person rather than talking to them directly or having an emotional blowout where you've said all the things that were bothering you all at once at the worst time. If you get anxious when a disagreement happens, discomfort when you have to confront a loved one with an issue, or run away from issues rather than facing them head-on, then you might be conflict avoidant. 


Conflict avoidants have a deep fear of disappointing or being abandoned by others. So conflict avoidants will make themselves uncomfortable in order to avoid making another person upset. They will do what they can to not rock the boat. This includes minimizing their feelings, denying that there is a problem, staying quiet, running away when tension builds, or avoiding showing up if they know that a conflict will occur. So you know you're a conflict-avoidant if you:


  • Strive to be seen as the nice one 

  • Change the subject when confrontation arises 

  • Avoid disagreeing with others, even when you really disagree 

  • Bottle up feelings instead of being honest, then explode later or act passive aggressive 

  • Fearful of expressing yourself 

  • Speak to other people about your conflict rather than talking directly to the person


Unfortunately, suppressing emotions and acting like everything is ok when it isn't just makes the negative emotions stew, boil, and turn into resentment. It's common for conflict avoidants to have volcanic emotional outbursts, as their hidden emotions can't stay under the surface for long. The true feelings accumulate and build up, then at times they come out like word vomit or in unhealthy actions, and cause the conflict avoidant to feel ashamed. Conflict avoidants might think, "This is what always happens when I say how I am really feeling." Then they don't feel comfortable expressing themselves because they associate being honest with feeling shame and embarrassment. Then the next time a conflict happens, they stay quiet, hold their feelings in, and then once their emotions are too heavy, an emotional explosion occurs once again. Thus, creating a vicious cycle. Those who are conflict avoidant expect that there will be negative reactions or consequences to a confrontation. They do not trust that the situation will end in a positive manner. Conflict avoidance originates mainly from people pleasing. People pleasing is the strong urge to please others, even if it's at their own expense. Those who suffer from people-pleasing and conflict avoidance may feel emotional, mental, and physical distress when they know they've upset another person. Unfortunately, we can't avoid distress because if we hold our emotions in, it causes emotional exhaustion. The bottled-up emotion has to go somewhere, and it can even manifest physically as a sickness. 


Conflict avoidance is associated with lying. You're not being honest about how you are truly feeling about something and instead acting like everything is ok. This can be misleading to other people, and they may feel confused or upset when your truth comes out in the end. Conflict avoidance can cause distrust in relationships. The other person may not trust you to be authentic. They might feel like they're walking on eggshells because they don't know when they've upset you or the next time you're going to have an emotional outburst. 


1. Give your inner child its voice back 

If you are conflict avoidant, think about your childhood. Why did you learn this habit? Did your caretakers provide a safe environment for you to speak about your feelings? Were there consequences if you didn't agree with your caretakers? If so, what kind of consequences? Were your emotions met with anger, criticism, or abandonment, even if they were expressed in a respectful manner? Or maybe you never saw your parents work through conflict in healthy ways, or they didn't argue at all, so you didn't learn how to work through conflict. Somewhere in your adolescence, you learned that the safest bet was to stay quiet and smile rather than cause a rift in the energy and that it's not worth it to share your opinions, thoughts, or feelings. If you're reading this now, you are most likely an adult. Which means you have the chance to re-parent your inner child. You can close your eyes and speak to your inner child. Tell your inner child that it's safe to tell your truth, express emotions, and set boundaries. Give your inner child its voice back. 


2. Accept that conflicts are going to happen 

There's no escaping conflict, especially in intimate relationships. In order to get past the fear of conflicts and to finally stop avoiding them, is to first accept that conflicts aren't going anywhere. To accept that bottling up emotions and exploding randomly or acting passive-aggressive may not be the healthiest way to communicate. So, if bottling isn't working, and you don't want to run away from your relationship, then you'll have to find the courage to speak your truth. When we avoid speaking our truth to our partner, it creates emotional distance from our romantic partner. Our partners may be confused about what they've done wrong or where they've crossed boundaries because we haven't been honest about what works for us and what doesn't.



3. Reframe conflict as an opportunity for growth 

In order to overcome the fear of conflict, it helps to reframe conflicts and learn to find the value in them. Instead of seeing conflict as something that's incredibly hurtful, we can turn our attention to how it's productive. Conflicts are an opportunity for the relationship to grow. Do you want the same negative relationship pattern to occur over and over again? If you want to change, you'll have to face your fear and work through the worry of possibly making the other person uncomfortable. From here on, look at conflict as a way to bring you closer to the other person. 


4. Journal!

Suppose you have a tough time using your voice to express yourself about a conflict. Teach yourself first by journaling and writing out your true emotions. Get your thoughts together. Give yourself space and freedom to dive into why you feel the way you do. Then when you feel the time is right, you'll be ready to speak about the conflict because you are prepared. You'll feel more confident knowing that you've done the emotional work and are acting instead of reacting. It may also help to write down what you'd like to say before you discuss the disagreement and then read off your notes. 


5. Let go of trying to control the other person's reaction 

You cannot control another person. What you tell them may cause an emotional reaction that displeases you. But it's not about pleasing the other person. It's about standing up for yourself in the healthiest way, communicating your truth, and allowing your inner child to speak. 



6. Remember, being dishonest and avoidant will not stop another from leaving 

Sometimes we hide our truth because we want the other person to see us as valuable, nice, and easygoing. We may think if we cause issues in our loved ones' life, they may not want to be around us anymore. We feel anxious that they'll abandon us or take space and slowly never come back. However, if we hide our emotions and passively attack the other person or blow up on them, that would surely make them frustrated, possibly even more frustrated than if you found a good time alone to speak with them respectfully about how you're feeling. We can't live our lives in fear and scarcity. That only manifests more fear and scarcity. We have to look within and see our value as a person, our value as a friend, lover, or family member. If the person you're afraid to talk to leaves after you speak to them one-on-one respectfully, then maybe they weren't meant to be in your life. You don't have to suffer in silence to keep the people who are meant to be in your life around. Those who are meant for you will stick around through thick and thin. 

Don't stop now! Check out our next article!

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