You know who they are, don’t you? They are people you know who avoid conflict at any cost. They are afraid of conflict even though counselors and psychologists tell us that conflict is a “backdoor blessing.” They say that because it forces us to face issues in our lives or relationships and make changes.
Let me say something up front, no one likes conflict. The issue, however, is not the conflict itself but how you handle the conflict. Conflict handled well can cause growth, resolution of problems, and deeper relationships. Conflict handled poorly can result in even greater division.
Facing conflict and dealing with it is risky. You risk alienating the other person, becoming emotionally out-of-control, doing or saying something you’ll regret, being assaulted, or having the other person cut you off in the relationship. Is it worth the risk? You will have to decide that but know that there is no emotional growth without conflict. We do not grow emotionally during the good times when everything is going well and life is smooth. We grow stronger and make changes when we are in the storm of conflict.
What are the signs that you’re conflict-avoidant? Here are a few you can use for a self-check:
- You speak and write words that give you or the other person an out. For example, “You are cordially invited to come to our house for dinner unless of course you have other plans.” Conflict avoiders always give others an out lest there be conflict over an invitation.
- You are willing to lie or be disingenuous rather than risk a conflict. You say what you think others want to hear even if you don’t believe it yourself.
- You withdraw and leave the conversation if it gets too pointed or intense. You remove yourself from any potential conflict. You usually can come up with an excuse to leave such as, “I need to check on the meal” or “I need to use the restroom.”
- You change the subject when you see where the subject is heading. You fear that conflict is just around the corner if the conversation continues down the same path so you change the subject. You often do that by subtly shifting the conversation onto a topic that is safer to discuss.
- You agree to a project or task because it’s easier to say “yes” and be liked by others than to risk conflict and rejection by saying “no.”
- You practice “benign neglect” meaning if you don’t like the communication you simply ignore it and don’t answer it. Perhaps the communication is too threatening or conflictual so you choose not to respond.
Fear is the dominant emotion behind conflict-avoidance. Fear of rejection, fear of being hurt, fear of loss of control, fear of being labelled a troublemaker. Conflict avoiders will not change until they face their fears, deal with them, and coach themselves not to avoid times of conflict.
Jesus NEVER avoided conflict,