The Use of Avoidance in Conflict

Avoidance is one of our defense mechanisms. If we are trying not to face the truth about something or desire to not feel a certain emotion, we can choose to avoid as a way of putting off the inevitable.  But how does the use of avoidance work in conflict? Typically, if someone tends to default to an avoidance position, they will also tend to do so in relationship as well to bypass conflict.

Sometimes, avoidance in conflict can be useful:

  • It prevents an immediate conflict; giving each other space to cool down.
  • Someone else may be able to resolve the conflict more effectively; thereby re-directing the conflict to an appropriate channel.
  • The issue or relationship is unimportant; therefore, why engage in the first place?

Although there are uses for avoidance in conflict, there are also dangers; especially when it is being used in relationships that are important to us. The risky parts to avoidance include:

  • Conflict festers until it escalates; creating an even bigger issue.
  • The relationship can move to or remain superficial.

Avoidance as an overall strategy isn’t one I generally recommend to clients; giving space to something while being transparent about it is a safer response to an issue that just can’t be dealt with in the moment. It bides you time while still respecting your loved one by not leaving them guessing.

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