Someone who cuts in line at the supermarket, unreasonable demands from the boss, choosing which TV program to watch as a family. Life is full of daily conflicts and some people try hard to avoid them. But living trying to have a peaceful party is not healthy.
Fear of Conflict — Avoiding Conflict
Paula’s boss gave her a new job ten minutes before the end of her shift. Paula dares not say anything in case he gets angry and takes it for granted that she will be home later, although that complicates things for her and the childcare bills, it is getting higher and higher.
Jesus is fed up with the conflicts his teenage brother causes at home, so every time his mother asks him to clear the table or take them to the dishwasher, he’ll do it so they don’t fight.
Like Paula and Jesús, there are millions of people who go through stressful conflict situations and want to avoid them, so whenever they can, they avoid confrontation to “live in peace”.
Do they manage to achieve that peace?
Jump furiously at the first opportunity
Experts say that at first glance they seem to save themselves the trouble, but in the long run, their strategies are as bad and disappointing as the strategies they fear so much.
People who overreact to any setback, jump at the first opportunity and are specialists in creating conflict even when there is none.
“When we observe and treat the different members of a group, a family or a couple, we see that those who feel the best are not those who avoid conflict.
What distinguishes those who function well from those who feel bad, and frustrated, is not that they do not have conflicts, but that they have strategies to resolve them,” says José Luis Martorell, director of the Applied Psychology service of the UNED.
Reacting to conflict
Our response to conflict, injustice or something unethical has a lot to do with our personality.
Others react angrily and express all the anger caused by the situation, others ignore it because they do not know how to deal with it or do not want to discuss it, and others want to show that there is an injustice or express their discontent politely and eloquently.
There are different strategies and ways of expressing emotions, not without consequences for the situation or each person. Reacting aggressively to a conflict can lead to inciting new ones.
Avoiding it to get rid of the problem will continue the behavior that originally caused the conflict.
Conflict resolution experts explain that the desire for peace is not always the desire for resolution and that for the sake of reconciliation, justice is often lost, evil is tolerated, or what is required is not demanded.
Consequences for those who adopt each of these strategies also may vary. Ferran Martinez Gomez, the psychologist at ISEP Clinic Castellon, uses the analogy of a balloon to explain this:
“The aggressive person, who gives free rein to his rage, is like the balloon that fills up, is suddenly released, and goes out of control.
An inhibited person, who avoids conflict, fills the balloon and keeps it, and the balloon fills up from one day to the next until it bursts; the assertive person is the one who fills and empties the balloon each time”.
Avoiding conflict does not mean eliminating it
“Conflict, the problem that causes it, is still there even if you deny it, so those who try to avoid it do not gain peace of mind because they need a lot of energy to deny it, and that causes them tension and, in the long run, takes its toll on them.”
The professor of psychology at the Complutense University of Madrid, Jose Ignacio Robles, explains that avoidance is usually a learned behavior, when resistance creates fear, you avoid it so as not to experience that tension, and you learn that it works.
But over time, this attitude brings problems, because in life you have to choose, and not every conflict can be avoided.
“In consultation, it is common to find the case of mature people who have been all their lives giving in and saying yes for not confronting their relatives and one day they can’t take it anymore, they explode and that breaks the schemes of their environment and the relationships blow up,” Robles points out.
He adds that another situation that often puts family conflict resolution strategies to the test and confronts them is when the children grow up:
“With couples, it often happens that one is very active in facing the problems with the adolescent child and the other, to avoid arguments, remains absent; but this avoidance makes the adolescent’s behaviors last, and the other member of the couple increases his aggressiveness until the conflict explodes”…