Do you like conflict?

Okay, who says yes to that question? Only people who audition for reality shows, I think.

Here’s a very personal confession: I hate conflict. Like, HAAAATE it.

I used to believe that finding a way to avoid conflict was the best thing I could do for my relationships. But after my divorce from a fellow people-pleaser, I realized avoiding conflict meant we never processed the hard stuff. And that’s a death sentence for any long-term relationship.

Spending the next few years learning how to better deal with conflict, I developed a framework for how to prepare for hard conversations. In my research of how we deal (or don’t deal) with conflict, I identified six different styles people have for avoiding hard conversations.


Do any of these conflict-avoiding styles feel familiar to you?


Overwhelm (illustration of a stick figure with multiple thought clouds over its head)
Your mind is flooding by all the possible choices, feelings, and doubts until it’s impossible to know what’s right. Example: Your thought-process has many conflicting “maybe’s” or you say “I don’t know what to feel.”

Self-Deception: If I get so full of thoughts and feelings that I can’t focus, I won’t have to deal with my anger. Distraction (illustration of a stick figure pointing multiple different directions)
You get busy with small or large tasks, or in other ways prioritize busy work.
Example: You decide to clean your bathroom, or nag family members rather than deal with a potential conflict.
 Self-Deception: If I never slow down to feel my feelings, I won’t have to deal with this issue or person.

With Overwhelm and Distraction, you are dissociating from your feelings about the conflict.


Self-Flagellation (illustration of a stick figure with its eyes closed and a frown hitting itself on the head with a bat with the word ‘thwack!’ above it and arrows are pointing at the person’s head) You beat yourself up when conflict arises or when someone gets upset. Example: You cry, repeatedly apologize, or go over and over the incident in your head. Self-Deception: If I punish myself enough, they’ll feel bad getting mad at me. Shut-Down (illustration of a stick figure inside a tight box covering its eyes and frowning while a grey rain cloud hovers over their head. A smaller stick figure is outside the box with its arms in the air and a thought bubble above it that reads ‘hello?’) You withdraw emotionally when you notice starting to feel angry. Example: You continue to remain in the situation, just listening disconnectedly without talking. Self-Deception: If I dampen my anger and mute my feelings, no one will get hurt.

With Shut-Down and Self-Flagellation, you are bullying yourself rather than confronting the actual situation.


Passive-Aggression (illustration of a stick figure smiling with a thought bubble on its right that reads ‘It’s fine’ while another smaller head is popping out to the left with an angry face and a thought bubble over its head that’s bright and jagged with expletive marks inside) You pretend that something is okay when actually you’re hiding your anger. Example: You say “I’m fine” through clenched teeth. Self-Deception: If I give clues that I’m angry, they’ll realize there’s a problem and fix it without me having to address the issue. Blame (image of a stick figure with an angry face pointing at a smaller stick figure next to it while a finger wags in the air over its head) You seek out and assign fault to anyone or anything else other than yourself. Example: You say things like, “It’s not my fault,” and “If you hadn’t done x, then I wouldn’t have done y." Self-Deception: If I always turn the attention away from me or the real issue, I won’t have to talk about anything that makes me uncomfortable.

With Blame and Passive-Aggression, you are deflecting your anger onto others rather than processing it.


The styles I would use to avoid conflict were Shut-Down and Self-Flagellation. Whenever there was a conflict emerging in any relationship, I would either beat myself up for my part, or shut down if I felt my anger rising.

In both cases, I was scared of not knowing how to manage conflict in a healthy way that didn’t cause harm to me or others.

In all of these six styles, you have emotions that are trying to speak to you about your needs and boundaries, but instead of channeling the emotions into mindful action, you are repressing crucial information in yourself.

Essentially, when you avoid conflict, you are lying to yourself and/or other people.


Image with a golden dragon on the left and text on the right reading "when you avoid conflict you are lying to yourself and other people."


Aren’t you tired of avoiding the hard talks? Wouldn’t it be a relief to learn to have those with confidence and compassion?


The way to stop being terrified of conflict is to practice being brave and facing the truth. I call this radical self-honestyand it’s a foundational teaching in my group program, Soul School.

Learning to be brave in the face of hard talks is a skill. It’s okay if you don’t already know how to do it! In fact, I created Soul School BECAUSE there were so many things most of us never learned from our families or academia.

Having a community to learn and practice emotional and relational skills with is priceless. Any time you join a group program, the biggest benefit is the experience of being with people who share your struggles and validate your wins because you no longer feel alone.

It’s time for the good-hearted, deep souls to have the master skills you need to stay balanced and grounded in this messy world. Soul School is here to help. 

To our development, together.


Want to get these articles in your inbox? Subscribe to my email list here.

No products in the cart.