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The idea of conflict avoidance seems descriptive, but it can actually show up in many ways. Some people completely deny an issue exists, while others may withdraw. When avoidance pops up, look for the signs to know what you're dealing with and consider that avoidance isn't always bad. Understanding avoidance is the first step to moving past it.
Elephant in the Room
Conflict avoidance can often show up as ignoring the issue. Those who ignore conflict, as a way to avoid conflict, are likely to deny the existence of a problem. For example, if you disagree with your roommate over who needs to do the dishes, your roommate may ignore this issue by "forgetting" to bring it up -- not taking initiative in solving the problem. Ignoring a problem quickly goes no where and may leave space for resentment to grow.
Diverting attention away from a conflict is how some people may avoid it. Instead of focusing on the issue, someone who side-steps conflict may change the subject when the conflict comes up. If you and your partner have an argument about spending time together, he may bring up other issues or completely change the conversation if he wants to avoid through diversion. When he diverts, it becomes more difficult to tackle the issue at hand because you have more to handle.
Like a Turtle Into Its Shell
When someone avoids conflict through withdrawal, they disengage from you. They offer little to nothing at all when trying to resolve conflict. This form of avoidance can show up as "shutting down" during conflict. For instance, if you have a conflict with your sister and she withdraws, she may not speak and she may have a blank or disinterested expression. Trying to resolve conflict with someone who withdraws can be draining, if you spend more energy than they do trying to solve the problem.
Other Side of the Coin
Dale Eilerman, a licensed counselor and writer for "Mediate," points out that conflict avoidance can sometimes be positive. Avoidance can help, if you don't have time to resolve an issue. Otherwise, you may end up frustrated. Avoiding a problem can also give you time to make a good decision, or allowing others to calm down. The key to knowing if avoidance is the right strategy is to ask if the time is right, if you are in your right mind or if the conflict is less important than other issues. For example, attempting to solve a problem with your friend right before you have to leave may feel rushed and may lead to frustration, rather than you avoiding the problem in the moment and committing to solve it when you have more time.
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