Conflict Avoidance: Is Conflict Avoidable or Inevitable?

When we think of “conflict” or “confrontation”, many of us automatically associate a negative or uncomfortable meaning to these words.  Sometimes we go to extraordinary  lengths to avoid confronting someone in hopes of keeping conflict out of our lives. One has to wonder whether or not this is delusional thinking, because even though we experience conflict avoidance, we also know full well that ALL human relationships experience times of disagreement, misunderstanding and discourse. It seems the very thing that makes human beings so interesting and unique, their individual differences, also contributes to the  misunderstandings and disappointments we hope to avoid.  

There are numerous reasons why people run from confrontation.  Some of the common ones:

  • Fear of making others disappointed or angry.  When others become angry, it appears to make the situation worse.  So we believe we’ve created trouble and made the situation worse by speaking up.
  • Most people want to be liked by others (even though some insist they don’t care).  Confronting someone is risky and may lead to them not liking us anymore. How much is there to lose if it goes badly?
  • Feeling incompetent in knowing how to confront properly.  Sometimes we just don’t know the right way to go about it or the right things to say.

Here are some things to consider:  is conflict something we should run away from?  Is it truly avoidable or is it actually an inevitable part of all human interaction?  Is avoiding conflict helpful in resolving issues?  Or does avoidance actually prolong the problem and lead to further disconnect?  If you’ve ever avoided confrontation only to discover feelings of frustration, resentment and anger, then you might already know the answer to this.  These negative emotions tend to lead to disconnect and distancing in relationships rather than fostering openness and harmony. As uncomfortable as confrontation is, addressing the issue directly rather than avoiding it at least offers a chance to better things.  

So the real issue is not how to avoid conflict, but rather how to learn to effectively handle conflict when it arises and to communicate thoughts, opinions and needs so that the door is left open instead of slammed shut.

The next series will discuss methods of resolving conflict that can be applied to ALL relationships and will talk about the importance of understanding and implementing boundaries in order to create harmonious human interactions.