Conflict can make us feel uncomfortable. And that’s because we think of it as a negative thing. Or, because conflicts have forced you to settle for less, sell yourself short or lower your standards.
But the truth is, conflict is an inevitable part of every relationship. Sometimes, conflicts can be healthy, and other times, it’s okay to avoid them. So, if you don’t like conflicts and tend to avoid them, this article is for you.
What is conflict?
When you think of conflict, what comes to mind? Do you think of confrontation, fighting, anger and even aggression? Conflict isn’t any of those things.
All conflict is is a difference of views between people. So, why do we avoid conflict like the plague?
Many argue that a low sense of self-esteem and self-worth drive people to avoid conflict at all costs. You see, when someone has low self-esteem and a low sense of self-worth, they don’t see the situation as a difference of viewpoints.
They don’t see that someone doesn’t like their belief or idea. Instead, what they see conflict as a personal attack.
The problem is that many people attach all of their self-worth to their thoughts and actions. Therefore, if someone disagrees with your idea, it can feel like they’re against you. And that’s a threatening feeling. And so, many of us avoid conflict because we don’t want to feel that way.
So, consider approaching conflict with the firm belief that what is at stake are ideas and viewpoints, and not your personal value and worth.
It can be easier to discuss things objectively when you don’t feel personally threatened.
Is conflict actually that bad?
Conflict doesn’t have to be a bad thing you need to avoid. Conflict can actually be a catalyst for you to become a better, stronger individual. Sure, conflict is uncomfortable, but sometimes stepping out of your comfort zone is exactly what you need to problem solve, engage in more creative thinking, be productive and even grow.
And one reason why we have a hard time seeing conflict as a good thing is because we only see potentially bad outcomes: the argument, the judgment, the disappointment, the stonewalling, the silent treatment, the regret.
But can you approach conflict with an open mind and go into it with a winning mindset, rather than a defeatist’s mindset?
For example, stop and think about how you approach conflict. Do you feel nervous, anxious, jittery, worried, scared, heated and agitated? That’s probably because you’re anticipating negative outcomes.
But consider approaching conflict believing that you will reach a positive outcome. Go into the discussion with the goal to come out with a solution. This mental decision alone can give you greater confidence when it comes time to engage in conflict.
Conflict may be necessary to keep your relationship strong
Without a healthy conflict, i.e., a heathy argument and open communication, people can hold things in. And this can lead to growing tension, resentment, bitterness, grudges and more negative feelings.
So, try to look at conflict as a short-term discomfort that can eliminate long-term distress and unhappiness.
How to stay true to your values and avoid conflict
You may fear conflict because you’re afraid you’ll have to sell yourself short and let go of important values. But it doesn’t have to work this way.
As we’ve seen, if you have a low sense of self-worth and low self-esteem, you will avoid conflict at all costs. What’s more, if you end up in a conflict, you will do just about anything to avoid arguments and offending people.
To do this, you’ll sell yourself short, agree to things you’re not comfortable, deny your needs and dismiss what’s important to you.
So, one of the most important things you can do is develop a greater sense of self-esteem.
Believe that you are important and valuable, and act as though you were. This goes for everything from personal grooming, your wardrobe choices, your dietary choices and just about every other lifestyle decision you make.
Put yourself in first place, and that will help you negotiate conflicts better. Because now, you’re not threatened by disagreements.
Focus on avoiding inner conflict with yourself
A lot of the time, you focus on avoiding conflict with other people, and that can make you do things you’re not okay with. But instead of creating peace, you actually create a lot of unrest and unhappiness inside yourself.
So, when we talk about avoiding conflict, maybe it’s time to start thinking about how important it is to avoid conflict with yourself. If you agree to something to “avoid conflict” only to walk away feeling angry, betrayed or frustrated, how is that avoiding conflict? In fact, these sort of decisions only invite conflict, and a lot more of it.
And isn’t it ironic that we’re so paranoid about disagreeing with other people, but we have no problem being at odds with ourselves?
So, how can you avoid this? By setting healthy boundaries. But try not to think about boundaries as something you create for other people. Instead, think about boundaries as being about you and your relationship with yourself.
Boundaries indicate how much respect you have for yourself. And when you create them, you’re creating a system in which you can thrive.
For example, if you create a boundary that says, “No work calls after 5 PM”, it’s because this allows you to switch off and be present with your partner and / or family.
Therefore, if your manager tries to contact you after 5 PM, you can honor this boundary not as a way to react against your manager, but as a way to act in a way that’s consistent with your values.
Staying true to your boundaries can help you avoid conflict both with people, but also with yourself.
5 tips to have a conversation rather than a conflict
Sometimes, you’ll have to deal with conflict, but you can make it positive with these five simple tips:
- Go into the conversation with the resolve to create a solution
- Focus on what you both agree on
- Be ready to admit when and how you were mistaken, and how you can improve that
- Don’t express your anger. Instead, breath deep and ask why you feel angry in the first place
- It’s okay to ask for time to walk away and gather your thoughts, especially if this will help you angry fights and confrontations