If you suffer from social anxiety, as many of us do, you’ve probably experienced the fear of conflicts at least once. People who struggle with this fear tend to remain silent or back out when facing a possible conflict or confrontation. This obviously leads to avoidance, low self-esteem, and unsolved life issues.
It is true that avoiding conflict provides a sense of ease, yet it encourages the thought that you are not able to handle conflicts at all and that it’s best to run away from those every single time. But we live in a social world where conflicts, confrontations, and disagreements are practically impossible to avoid completely…
Therefore learning how to stop being afraid of them, how to be assertive (not aggressive!) when dealing with disagreements, how to stand your ground when someone is trying to take advantage you, is an important step to take in your life.
Here what that I found useful when dealing with conflicts and fear of confrontation.
Analyze your mindset
If you want to stop being afraid of conflicts, you will first have to analyze the way you think (I know, I sound like a broken record, but many things DO stem from your mindset, it’s just how it is). Analyze your behavior in the face of a possible conflict. Make a list of reasons why you avoid confrontations.
This might include the fear to speak up and state your arguments, the fear of being perceived as a rude person, fear of losing something or even the fear that other person will hurt you. All of these are legit reasons and it’s OK to feel that way – you don’t need to judge yourself.
Making a list like that will ease your mind and allow you to calmly asses your behavior.
Consider what you might receive if you decided to stand your ground
Imagine yourself being proactive in a conflict, instead of staying silent and avoiding confrontation. Think about what you would say, what would happen and what you might get in return of this. Be clear about all the things you would GAIN by dealing with conflict. Write down everything that crosses your mind.
A few ideas from my own list:
If I face my fear of conflicts, I will:
- Feel more confident the next time something similar happens;
- Possibly turn the situation in my favor;
- Prevent being pushed by other people;
- Speak out my opinion and not feel oppressed;
- Practice dealing with angry people in a calm and civilized way;
- Know that I didn’t back out and stood up for myself.
I recommend keeping this list close and re-reading it regularly. This will empower you and make things easier for you to deal with when a conflict or confrontation arises.
Think about your fear
In most situations, fear appears when we imagine a negative outcome in a specific situation. For people who are anxious, imagining the worst-case scenario is almost an automatic thing to do.
Let’s say you tell yourself constantly that ‘confrontation is dangerous’. This statement is creating negative scenarios in your head, which then fuel your fear, leading to avoidance and an urge to run from harsh situations.
But if you take a moment to consider it, the truth is that confrontation is something human beings do all the time and it is rather healthy for our mind, unless you’re being aggressive about it. Finding positive ways to address a conflict is what makes our brain sharp and expressing our opinion leads to improved situations.
So, next time you experience the need to run away from conflict, don’t! Instead, state your opinion in a calm manner, add some pros and cons and express your feelings about how it made you feel.
An obvious exception: If you ever feel like the person you’re talking to is getting physically aggressive, back out IMMEDIATELY! Such people can’t control their anger and it’s better to not risk provoking them. If you need to solve a problem or disagreement with such a person, make sure to do that while other people are around.
One problem at a time
The key to success in dealing with conflicts is addressing one problem at a time. Start with small problems and build up towards the biggest ones. This is a constructive way of expressing your thoughts while allowing the other person to get a glimpse of your point of view.
Speak in the first-person terms
Usually, people tend to feel threatened by expressions that start with ‘you did something wrong’. On the other hand, ‘I’ statements are meant to ease the tension and are great for dealing with conflicts without making them worse.
Instead of stating something like ‘it is your fault we didn’t do this because it was you who missed the deadline’, you can say ‘it was upsetting for me to not complete this on time and I was wondering if you had any issues we could discuss’. Calm, assertive statements are great for delivering your message and, at the same time, they allow you to talk about your feelings.
Remember that anger will only fuel conflicts, so keep things simple and say exactly what you think and feel, but in a calm and respectable way.
… But being nice is not always the best way
I know you’re probably the nicest person in the world and, at some point in your life or career, someone took advantage of your kindness and made you feel awful.
It is important for you to understand that when people are angry, they use any means necessary to overpower you. Additionally, when people feel scared (of being wrong, of losing something, of admitting their mistake), they will do anything to protect themselves and their ego. Therefore, being nice is kind of out of the question when dealing with conflicts and you have to be OK with this.
Now, I’m not telling you to go all loco and start putting war paint on your face… Just keep up a respecting attitude, filled with good intentions. State your thoughts clearly, but do not pamper every word as a nice person would. Do not try to make it sound nice if it is not.
As you can see, dealing with a fear of conflicts is a constant learning curve. You have to teach yourself how to speak up and deal with intense feelings. How to stop imagining the worst and work on a constructive solution instead…
… But it is NOT impossible and moreover – these are very important things to learn. We are all humans, we all make mistakes. And we have to learn to accept the mistakes of others and admit those of your own – in a calm, brave and civilized way.
I hope these tips helped you.
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