Why Chronic Conflict Avoidance Doesn’t Work


We have all heard of people who avoid any type of conflict when dealing with others. The standard reason that is usually given is that they do not want the other person to be angry with them or they think it would lead to an argument that would be very upsetting to them. Often, such avoidance leads to some initial relief. On the back end, however, it results in just the opposite. An issue that is avoided only gets added to previous unresolved issues, making the problem bigger.

With the continuous buildup of unresolved issues, the results can be an irrevocable breech in the relationship. This can lead to an eventual end of the relationship. However, more often than not, the two people continue in an inauthentic relationship with one or both internalizing resentment and hostility over things that are never talked about.

One tactic used in avoiding conflict is to ruminate about the perceived negative aspects of the other person.  Attempting to deal with a conflictual issue is viewed to only lead to explosive, defensive behavior on the part of the other person.  However, instead of viewing the other person as the source of the problem, one could risk examining and taking responsibility for one’s own behavior. This strategy could strengthen the likelihood of a positive outcome.

Remember that when people elect to get into a relationship, it is never a utopia. People are not clones of one another but rather are different in a countless number of ways. Needs, wants and desires are often different for each person involved in a relationship. Avoiding and not talking about those differences usually leads to conflicts of some sort.

Being aware and addressing one’s own needs while appropriately recognizing and respecting the needs of the other person is crucial. One must be willing too be open and honest, seeking a resolution that will work for both, This is hard to do, in that we are all creatures of habit. It is always easier to view the other person as having the problem and view them as the ones who need changing.

Resist the temptation to view the conflictual issue dualistically, where there is a winner and a loser. Instead, focus on the issue at hand and not the personalities. Avoiding the conflict can be viewed as the easier path to take on the front end.  However, on the back end it usually turns out worse. Avoidance, once brought to light, breathes mistrust, which is difficult tp rebuild and never fully forgotten.

As always, any comments, suggestions, requests can be directed to me, Ray Shocki PhD, LCSW, LMFT at lifesourcecenter@aol.com