5 steps to avoid being a conflict avoider

Does the word conflict make you feel immediately uncomfortable? Would you do anything to shut down or change a conversation if there was a disagreement?

That's a normal reaction because fighting isn't fun. It's stressful and it can affect your important relationships.

However, in many situations at work or with friends it can be a healthy way to express your feelings and to have your thoughts and opinions heard.

What stops us speaking up when we disagree?

Well, there are lots of different reasons. I've picked out some of the common ones my clients mention in coaching sessions:

  • A deep fear of upsetting the other person, being disapproved of or causing other negative emotions.
  • An experience of bad arguments in your childhood or adulthood.
  • A childhood where there was never conflict and disagreements weren't discussed.
  • Conditioning by society, school or parents to behave like a 'nice' girl.

How do I build my conflict resolution skills?

I’ve broken this down into five easy steps - they don’t necessarily follow in order, but each one complements each other.

1. Is this issue important enough to me to speak up?

You don't have to confront every situation but if it's happened before, you are having conversations in your head about it or it breaches your personal boundaries, then go for it.

2. Speak assertively

This means talking about the facts of the situation and using 'I' statements. Then you won't be blaming the other person and they're less likely to be defensive.

3. Listen and question

I like to think about Stephen Covey's famous quote "Seek first to understand, then to be understood". Posing questions can also be a good way to make sure you have an understanding of the full picture.

4. What is the real issue behind the conflict?

The issue for the other person might not be actually what you're disagreeing about. For example, a heated family discussion about who has the parents for Christmas might actually be about feelings of jealousy or being left out. When you know the real meaning it's easier to be compassionate.

5. Winning isn't always the right outcome

Having a set outcome in mind is important, such as an apology or change of opinion. But, sometimes, just speaking up for yourself is enough. It gives a great boost to your self-respect and also might build the other person's respect for you.

If any of this resonates with you and you'd like to find out more about managing conflict at work or in relationships, consider contacting a coach.

Good luck


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