How to Overcome Conflict Avoidance
Conflict is an inevitable part of life and is not something that you need to avoid. You can assert yourself respectfully by explaining yourself clearly in a calm way. Illustrate your ideas with examples and make a point of acknowledging other people’s ideas as well. Be open to compromise and ask other people to elaborate on their opinions to gain new insight.
Set boundaries.Be clear about what your boundaries are so that people will know. This will make it easier for you to assert yourself. Take some time to identify what your limits are in your relationships. What are you unwilling to accept?
- Try tuning into your feelings to help you identify your boundaries. For example, if you feel uncomfortable during an interaction with someone, take a moment to consider why you might be feeling that way.
- You will need to express your boundaries to other people so that they know what they are. Try saying something like, “It make me feel uncomfortable when people hug me, so I’d rather just shake hands.”
Assert your opinion as soon as possible.Putting off potentially awkward situations just delays the inevitable and may result in tensions building over time. When you have an idea or disagree with someone else's thought, voice it right away. Be as respectful and positive as possible when speaking up.
- For instance, say something like, “I think our party budget would be better spent on food and drinks than on a DJ.”
Describe your vision as clearly as you can.A fear of being misunderstood may cause you to hold back from discussion or debate. Aim to explain your point of view and goals as succinctly as you can to avoid miscommunication. Be positive and diplomatic in how you express yourself.
- For example, offer an explanation like, “I think that doing both print and digital advertising will cover a wider market and bring in new customers, like students and the elderly.”
Try to stay composed and unemotional.Anger, frustration, and other emotional reactions can overshadow rational arguments. Gain control of your emotions by practicing deep breathing when you start to upset or overwhelmed. Try to be mindful of your own negative thoughts so that doubt and insecurity do not get the best of you.
- If you get emotional when engaging in a debate with someone, take a moment to ask yourself why you are feeling upset. Understanding the root of your frustration can remove the power of your emotions.
- In some cases, voicing your emotions may be helpful. Say something like, "Forgive my tone, I'm a little upset."
Maintain a serious, focused tone.Sarcasm, joking, and deflection are common ways to avoid conflict. To communicate your thoughts clearly, stay serious about the issues and speak with purpose. Making light of a situation will not make people take your thoughts seriously.
- For instance, avoid being humorously overdramatic or preceding your opinion by something like, "I guess I'll just pour my heart out to you now."
Acknowledging Different Points of View
Speak objectively to avoid making the other person defensive.It is important to be polite and diplomatic when dealing with a conflict situation to prevent negativity. If you disagree with someone’s opinion or actions, express that without labelling them or being accusatory. In the interest of resolving the situation smoothly, be respectful and frame things in a neutral way.
- Use “I” statements to express yourself instead of casting blame. Instead of saying something like, “You forgot about the food budget for the meeting”, say, “I can tell that you’ve worked out a lot of details about the meeting. Can you take a moment to address the food budget?”
Ask about another person's rationale or reasoning.Demonstrate thoughtfulness by taking an interest in why someone has an idea rather than just dismissing it. If someone expresses an idea that clashes with your own, react calmly by asking how they came to that opinion. Ask politely and aim to show genuine interest in their answer.
- You could say, “I'm intrigued by what you just said. How did you come to that conclusion?”
Show how someone else’s idea can work in unison with your own.One way to both be assertive and avoid negative interactions is to suggest that 2 different ideas can both be correct. Validate the other person’s argument by discussing it in conjunction with your own. Stress that this is an “and” situation rather than an “either/or” situation.
- Emphasize a sort of solidarity by saying something like, “You are dedicated to raising funds for the library and I am striving to increase the budget for school plays. How can we accomplish these goals with limited contributions?”
Be open to compromise or new alternatives.While it is important to be assertive and fight for what you believe in, it is also healthy to remain flexible and be open to other ideas. Keep an open mind about other people’s ideas and express your willingness to compromise. You may even need to sacrifice a little sometimes to come to a resolution. This is not a step to avoid conflict but to address things head on and work out a solution.
- Set the tone for compromise by outlining the positive attributes of 2 contradictory ideas and proposing a brainstorming session to find a mutually beneficial third option.
Video: Overcoming Barriers: Conflict Avoidance
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