There are countless people who believe that the best way to handle conflict is to not have any. When things get tough, their choice is to duck, avoid, distract or disengage, in the hope that the issue will resolve itself. If the issue doesn’t resolve itself, they feel a sense of relief that at least they succeeded in avoiding conflict.
The unfortunate truth about conflict, though, is that not talking about conflict often creates more conflict—either internally, externally or both.
Stop fooling yourself into thinking that avoiding difficult conversations is doing you any favors. If anything, ducking is causing you more problems then you realize. Below are ten reasons to stop avoiding -- and start having -- adult conversations.
- Avoiding difficult conversations makes solutions almost impossible. It’s very difficult to solve a problem if you’re not willing to talk about it.
- When you stay silent in response to conflict, inherent in your silence is acceptance. If you don’t like the behavior, stop silently acting as if you do.
- The more you ignore issues, the bigger they grow. The issues you ignore today will likely drive you crazy and harm your life tomorrow. Tomorrow may be a day from now, a week from now or even five years from now…and, tomorrow will come.
- The bigger the issues grow, the bigger your resentment is likely to get. It’s almost impossible to continually avoid addressing poor treatment or upsets without getting resentful. Avoiding conflict with others externally doesn’t mean you won’t feel the turmoil internally.
- You teach others how to treat you. In your effort to avoid conflict, you often teach a very warped lesson to others about how you like to be treated.
- The more you duck and avoid, the more others get away with their behavior and the worse they treat you.
- The worse others treat you, the worse you feel about yourself and your relationship. Your attempt to avoid conflict at all cost, in an effort to save a relationship, ironically ends up rotting out the relationship.
- The more others treat you poorly, the more angry and resentful you’re likely to become. The angrier you become, the more likely you are to oscillate between silence and blowing up--neither of which are effective.
- Your anger is, in part, at yourself. You can only take so much poor treatment before the wisest part of you gets angry at your lack of self-care.
- If you avoid conflict in one relationship, you are likely to avoid conflict in all relationships. Your avoidance is about your edge, not about the other person’s behavior.
Avoiding conflict is a seductive pull for many people. On the surface, it looks like doing anything to keep the peace is the smartest choice. When you look beyond the surface, however, the reality is that this tactic seldom keeps the peace for long.
Stop ducking. Trust that you are mature enough to handle an honest conversation about a difficult issue and then step in and respectfully have the conversation. Handle a moment of discomfort now and avoid years of anger and resentment later.
Challenge: Notice all the things you do and say to avoid conflict. What impact does your avoidance have on your life and your relationship? Start to take baby steps to stop avoiding and start dealing.