Avoiding Conflict: Why We Do It

women-chattingDo you hate conflict? Do you find yourself doing almost anything to avoid getting into a conflict? Have you decided that sharing your opinion is too risky so you simply go along with others even when you don’t want to? Are you a good listener but struggle to tell others what you think?

Welcome to the club… it’s a big one! There are many ways to find yourself communicating this way. Your parents may communicate similarly. On the other hand, your parents may have been overbearing and made expressing your opinion unavailable. Another interesting possibility may be that you were born with the ‘gift’ of sensitivity. This gift takes years to learn to manage and when young everyone may seem overbearing. The inattentive form of ADHD can lead to this form of communication as can trauma, particularly when the trauma occurs when you are very young.

Avoiding Conflict: The Pros and Cons

The tendency to listen well and avoid conflict may have many advantageous features. Your ability to see conflict coming and ‘finesse’ your way around it might make you a great peace maker. Your ability as a listener may help you to ‘open up’ someone’s concerns. You may be a great team player with the ability to smooth the rough edges of others who tend to be more contentious.

I am very sure that you also know that chronically avoiding conflict creates more than a few problems. You have likely found that everyone likes to talk to you about their problems. It’s a great skill to develop in your career. In life, you have also likely discovered these same people have little time for your concerns. When you first discover that you have little in the way of personal support you may feel shocked and angry until you realize you are the one who set up your relationships this way. Forget about getting good deals, you likely always pay full price. Worse, people may seem to be able to see you coming and double the price of anything you are interested in.

The problems of these imbalances only multiply in intimacy. Dating can be a nightmare as I am sure you already know. Then there are the issues of any long term committed relationship. The more you agree to do, the more you end up doing. The less you communicate what you need, the less your needs are met. It can get to the point where your mate becomes frustrated with your inability to tell them what you want, even when they ask. How often have you cringed when they asked, “Where you would like to eat?”

Know Yourself to Handle Conflict with Wisdom

What can you do to grow your ability to know who you are? How can you remain present even during a conflict? How can you learn to spend a little more time with you, even as you are talking with someone, so at least you can know what you think? I talked about this with Amy Weintraub creator of LifeForce Yoga. She shared her thoughts about the value of building your presence in the moment. She also has experienced the personal resilience that is possible with daily practice. In Yoga, your practice involves being more present while you exercise. Much like any form of meditation you feel into and become more in touch with your mind/body experience. With Yoga, this practice includes remaining in touch as you move.

Let’s take our prayer/meditation practice off the cushion and into our lives. Let’s learn to practice remaining connected to our true self and our true values as we give and receive with compassion.

To learn more about how Yoga and other techniques can help you get in touch with your true self, check out the Oneness Approach podcast.

3 replies
  1. Michael Seng
    Michael Seng says:

    Dear Dr. Seng,
    The major influence in my childhood came from my Grandmother who was a warm, caring woman who never said anything negative about anyone, and ask that you always looked for the good in a person, and never said anything negative unless you first could say something that was positive that reflected well about them. She hated gossip and reminded me to always be careful what I said, that words could hurt, and that once they were out there, they could never be taken back. Bragging, she considered to be bad manners, and told me that if I did something that was worthwhile, that it would be noticed, so that I did not have to brag about myself. She expected those around her to be polite and use good manners. I never heard anyone in her presence use foul language. Everyone seemed to think highly of her, and considered her to be the gracious Lady and they addressed her out of respect with the title of Miss, no one called her by just her given name. She entertained me with stories of her childhood and sang me songs from the era and gave me her books which she had when she started school to read; all were stories with moral lessons. Some of the songs from her era were actually funny and she would laugh as she told them. One, I remember was about the beginning of hot dogs being sold at the fair or circus. It was called ” Fiddo is a Hot Dog now “. Another song was about her doll, Raggedy Ann who laid in the closet for many long years with her feet folded over her ears. Pictures of my Grandmother when she was young show that she was an exceedingly beautiful woman. She was a Methodist and very religious and read the large pictorial, Family Bible daily, often reading to me from it with part of it in my lap as well as hers. She was probably as close to being a saint as human being can come to be. The memories of her are most precious to me.


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