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What Is Conflict Avoidance?

Avoiding conflict at all costs can make a problem larger in the long run.
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  • Written By: B. Miller
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 27 March 2014
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Conflict avoidance is a personality trait in which one would prefer to avoid confrontation or arguments with other people, and may practice various methods such as changing the subject or simply agreeing with the argumentative person as a way of avoiding these conflicts. People who do this are sometimes referred to as "people pleasers," and though there is nothing inherently wrong with attempting to avoid conflicts, some people find that it causes issues in relationships over time. A psychologist or therapist may be able to help an individual learn better methods of dealing with conflicts in a healthy way, rather than practicing conflict avoidance.

The personality trait of conflict avoidance is a very common one, as many people prefer not to argue, and want to just "keep the peace" even at cost to themselves. People may practice conflict avoidance in a number of ways; for instance, they might simply pretend that everything is fine and refuse to acknowledge their own feelings. Some of them will physically leave the room or the conversation if a conflict seems to be brewing, and refuse to discuss it at all. A more moderate tactic is to just try to change the subject to something more pleasant. Still others will engage in passive-aggressive behavior as a method of indirectly expressing themselves and their displeasure.

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One of the least healthy methods of conflict avoidance is to simply agree to whatever the other person is saying, rather than standing up for oneself. In some situations compromise is important, of course, but many people who do this end up feeling resentful, or as if they never get what they want. Sometimes, people who avoid conflicts find themselves in relationships, either romantic or platonic, with people who are very dominating and will demand their own way. These relationships are often doomed to fail unless communication strategies are addressed and change.

Practicing being more assertive in discussions without being aggressive is one way to deal with conflict avoidance issues, as well as making sure each person in the relationship has a turn to talk and express him or herself. Going to therapy independently or as a couple can be a very effective way of learning new communication methods that can help with this problem. Avoiding conflicts at work can lead to larger issues, as well as increased stress in one's life. Generally, this is a learned personality behavior that can be altered with practice and patience.

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Discuss this Article

julies
Post 7

I have never had any trouble avoiding conflict. Part of me actually enjoys some confrontation and I really have to work at this, especially when I am at home.

Because this is something that always came easy for me, much of my work involves negotiation. Sometimes it is hard to put that aside when I get home from work.

I have to work more on conflict resolution skills more from the standpoint of the best way to deal with it. Avoiding the conflict is not the problem, but I tend to rush in to the situation without thinking it through first.

sunshined
Post 6

@honeybees - Have you ever thought about attending some kind of conflict management class?

This is something that has helped me tremendously, as I have struggled with this in the past also.

Even though I took this class years ago, I still put in to practice many of the things I learned. This has helped me not only in my family relationships, but also at work.

I knew if I was ever going to be an effective manager, I would have to learn how to manage conflict instead of avoiding it.

There are different conflict management styles, and most people find one that works best for their personality. You will learn a lot about yourself in the process and I found the whole class to be very interesting and helpful.

honeybees
Post 5

If I were to accurately describe myself, I would have to say that I avoid conflict at almost all cost. I am not sure if this is a good or bad trait, but know that is my first response.

I know that managing conflict is much better than avoiding it, but if given the chance, I will leave the room and hope it goes away.

This can be very frustrating for those who have to live with me. My husband is one to confront an issue head on, right away, and move on. As you can imagine, this has caused conflict in our marriage because we approach things so differently.

I think part of avoiding conflict also involves some procrastination. If I know I need to address a situation that may cause conflict, I put it off as long as possible. I think of every excuse I can possibly think of to put it off as long as possible.

The strange thing is, I always feel so much better once the situation is worked out. Even though I know this, it is still not easy for me to do.

seag47
Post 4

If you avoid conflict for too long, it can affect your health. This happened to my mother at her job. People were always dumping their work on her, and she always accepted it to avoid an unpleasant situation.

It got to be too much for her to handle. She was working overtime and losing sleep. Her blood pressure went up, and she started having panic attacks.

Her doctor told her that she had to do something about the cause of her stress. He could have given her blood pressure medication, but that would only mask the problem.

She was so scared of conflict that rather than confront her coworkers, she quit her job. She started working from home for another company so that she could avoid ever being in this position again.

kylee07drg
Post 3

I had a boyfriend who always tried to avoid stressful conflict. At first, it seemed like a good thing. He was easygoing and pleasant to be around.

After awhile, I wanted to see some conviction from him. It seemed I couldn't even get a jealous reaction out of him when I tried.

One day, a guy came up and started hitting on me. I told him I was with my boyfriend, but he just kept on trying to get my number right in front of him.

My boyfriend said nothing! Even after the guy finally gave up and walked away, he simply changed the subject.

I couldn't deal with that lack of passion. I wanted someone who would fight for me if necessary, and to me, this conflict avoidance reeked of apathy.

cloudel
Post 2

@OeKc05 – I was like you for my first twenty-five years. I agreed with everyone just so that we could all get along. I didn't like the stress brought about by raised voices or unpleasant topics, so I just did everything I could to ease situations.

One day, it all proved too much for me. I was taking a tongue lashing at work that I didn't deserve, and I just blew up. My anger spewed forth in the form of all I had wanted to say for years.

Rather than getting fired for my actions, I got applauded by everyone in the office. They had apparently been waiting for the day I would stand up for myself.

After that, I let my feelings flow through my mind and right out of my mouth. I never keep things bottled inside anymore. If something is bugging me, I speak up.

OeKc05
Post 1

I avoided conflict at all costs as a youth. I took verbal beatings just to avoid fighting, and I ended up in several unhealthy friendships because of this.

After years of being a doormat, I finally confronted my most dominating friend. I told her how she was treating me and that I didn't like it.

Being controlling was as much a part of her personality as avoiding conflict was a part of mine, so we agreed it was best for us to part ways. I felt relieved once I took charge of what had been bugging me for years.

Now, I realize that sometimes, conflict is unavoidable and even healthy. I won't stand by and let someone do me wrong.

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