Understanding how to stop avoiding conflict is not easy – especially if you’re a serial people-pleaser like myself.
As an introvert and a woman, I’ve spent my life being told by society (and my own inbuilt limiting beliefs) to be quiet, listen and don’t rock the boat.
That probably sounds familiar to you. Even on a small level, we’ve been conditioned to avoid conflict with others as much as possible. Your level of people-pleaser-ness will be determined by your upbringing, your school environment, your friends, family and experiences you’ve had throughout your life.
The comparison here between men and women is stark, you will see it in everyday life. We’re taught to do as we’re told, to be quiet and sweet, to only play the games that are innocent, we are taught to please others.
So, if you have a little people pleaser streak in you, here’s why and how to stop avoiding conflict so you can actually get the things you want.
How to stop avoiding conflict
“If you avoid conflict to keep the peace, you start a war inside yourself.”– Cheryl Richardson
If you avoid conflict regularly, you probably do it because it’s much easier than having that argument or annoying someone. But you know as well as I do that avoiding an argument to save yourself, actually harms you.
Take this personal (and very trivial) example:
Me and my husband went through a period a little while back of being a little busy. The result of this was that the house (which is also my office) fell into ruin. We had piles of dishes, random pieces of clothing in weird places, the whole house was a mess and I was stressed as a result.
I could have let it go, after all, we’d been busy, so I could do a little tidying up each day and the house would be back to normal. That decision would have probably avoided an argument, but it would have also set a precedent.
Instead of avoiding conflict and getting it done myself, I decided to bring up the topic with my husband. There was something amazing that came at the end of it – a solution. We came to an agreement which would ensure something like this wouldn’t happen again and solidified the idea that we are a team and we work together.
For five minutes of hell (obviously, I prefer avoiding conflict), I was rewarded with something that made my life better.
How to determine if the conflict is worth it
Not every conflict situation is worth using your energy on. To determine which situations you should instigate some form of conflict, here are some questions you can answer:
1. If you stay quiet, will it make your life worse?
A lot of the time, a people-pleaser will avoid conflict because they don’t want to cause emotional stress to themselves in the moment, or the other person.
It’s time to start looking at things long-term. If you stay quiet, will your future-self be lumped with an even worse situation, one that you could have prevented by speaking up?
Stop saving yours and their short-term feelings and start thinking about your future self.
2. If you stay quiet, will it make their life worse?
Being a people-pleaser isn’t always a selfless act. In fact, there are plenty of occasions where you avoiding conflict is robbing someone else of the truth.
If you have the ability to truly save someone else from future problems or emotional stress by being uncomfortable yourself, it’s time to do it.
Note: Think this one through because your actions/words have consequences.
3. If you stay quiet, will it affect a 3rd party?
If the actions or words of the person you’re dealing with are having an effect on a 3rd party, then it’s time to speak up. Their words might not affect you directly but you have the power in this situation to speak up and make a change.
Again, don’t put your short-term discomfort over the needs or lives of others.
With these three in mind, you should be able to determine whether conflict is worth your emotional energy.
In these situations, it’s always important to remember the following:
- Listen to the other person’s opinion – understanding their perspective will help you shape your argument.
- Talk about the impact of their words/actions – it’s always easier for someone to understand why you’ve initiated conflict when you explain why.
- Stay calm – conflict doesn’t have to be an argument.
- Be willing to compromise, but don’t sacrifice your morals and your integrity in order to compromise.
- Come to a solution – never leave conflict unresolved.
If you stop avoiding conflict, you will get what you want
I know this sounds obvious, but can you imagine if you spoke your mind at a meeting, asked someone person to stop being rude to you, or had that argument? Your opinion would finally be out there, your voice would be louder, you would finally be heard.
I know it’s easier to let things slide, and sometimes that’s the right thing to do. But when that thing impacts your life and the future actions of others, it’s time to stop avoiding conflict, and start running towards it.
This post isn’t about how to argue, or what to say when in conflict. I know you know how to do it well and appropriately. What I want from you is to understand that conflict, healthy conflict, is okay. In fact, it’s good. No progress ever came from everybody agreeing with each other.
Don’t let your voice be silenced, speak up and you will be heard.
Featured image by Eunice Lituañas