Conflict is often an inevitable part of navigating change. And the fear of conflict is one of the primary things that keep people stuck in situations that no longer work for them.
I would argue that most people don’t love conflict. Some seem to thrive on conflict, but I don’t believe that’s everyone. No one loves it but some people are so conflict-averse, they work hard to avoid it at all cost.
On the surface, this seems to preserve relationships. But each time you don’t speak up or you let something go unchallenged a crack develops in your relationship. Its integrity is compromised in small ways that build up over time.
Getting comfortable with conflict is a necessary skill for maintaining healthy relationships, both with yourself and with others.
Here are a few tools that can help you to begin overcoming your fear of conflict.
Identify the source of the fear
The fear you feel around conflict is real. AND it might also not be true. Getting curious about your fear can help you identify its origin and how to move past it.
If you avoid conflict for fear of rocking the boat in your relationships, get curious. Where is that fear coming from? Where have you witnessed “rocking the boat” go bad? And is that true for THIS situation? It might be but until you do the inquiry you can’t know for sure.
Getting curious about and engaging with your fear may be your path to freedom around conflict. Let me say though, this might be too hard to do on your own and you may need to get support. If needed, I encourage you to seek out support either from a therapist or a coach.
Notice what’s happening in your body. The flight/fight/freeze mechanism in your brain may be getting triggered and your body may be reacting. This is particularly true if you have had negative experiences around conflict in the past (or witnessed conflict go bad as a child).
Teaching your brain and your body that you are okay is important here. Your body is reacting either to something from the past or anticipating something that might happen in the future. Grounding techniques can help keep you in the current moment.
My favorite tool for managing anxiety around conflict is a technique I call 5 Breaths. Here’s the technique:
- Hand on your heart
- Inhale for a count of 5
- Exhale for a count of 5
- Repeat 5 times
By the time you get to the third breath, you’ll start feeling a lot calmer. You may need to practice this a few times before attempting a hard conversation. The nice thing is this is something you can do anywhere and at any time.
This is just one option. Find something that will work for you. You’ll need that sense of grounding when it comes time to have the hard conversation.
Practice what you want to say
Writing out your words may help you clarify what you want to say. As much as possible, stick to I-statements. Speak from your personal experience. Identify what is happening for YOU and avoid blaming the other person.
Practice saying it to yourself or a friend. It might take you a while before you can say it to the person and that’s okay. This is simply about beginning to move past your fear of conflict. Saying it out loud a few times can help you gather your courage.
Baby steps count
If conflict is hard for you then you may have to baby step your way towards being okay with it. Stay patient with yourself. Begin with the tools identified here. As you gain more courage you can look to having those hard conversations.
If you’d like to learn specific tools for resolving conflict, I invite you to join me for a FREE 3-day Communication Training. During these 3-days, we’ll look at:
- The heart of communication
- The art of listening
- Effectively resolving conflict.
- Plus, more
Click here for upcoming dates and more details.
Now, I’d like to hear from you. What is your relationship with conflict? Do you avoid or are you okay having those hard conversations? Tell me in the comments below or email me at makeda(at)makedapennycooke.com.
Here’s to you overcoming your fear of conflict and rising into your greatness.
From my heart to yours,