It happens often: You find yourself between a rock and a hard place, contemplating fight or flight. When faced with confrontation, your mind tells you to avoid the situation at all costs. Flee it is.
There are two types of individuals: those who seek to confront issues head-on and those who avoid confrontation in favor of letting the problem naturally dissipate. If you're the latter, it's neither a poor quality or a wholly positive quality to steer clear of argument and conflict, as it has its fair share of benefits and consequences.
To further explore what it means to be a person who tends to avoid confrontation, I chatted with April Masini, New York-based relationship and etiquette expert and author, as well as Tina B. Tessina, PhD, aka "Dr. Romance," psychotherapist and author of It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction. Here's what it says about your personality if you choose flight over fight.
1. You're Analytical
According to Masini, someone who avoids confrontation may simply feel a fight isn't worth the energy, which results in either walking away or changing the subject before it escalates. In other words, you pick and choose your battles wisely. Analyzing a situation before it reaches a point of no return amounts to no wasted breath and no harm, no foul.
2. You're Aware
You've seen where confrontation can lead, and as Dr. Tessina tells me via email, it's likely you've been in a volatile relationship before. Foresight warns you that confrontation may not be worth the potential result, which leads to avoidance, as Masini further explains, "[Someone who avoids confrontation] may feel that the relationship they have with the person provoking them, is too valuable to damage with an argument."
3. You're Passive
"[People who avoid confrontation] are often passive or codependent in nature. Volatile people are familiar (as in family) and they tend to gravitate toward them, but then they are too avoidant to stand up for themselves, so they placate them," Tessina explains. Passivity isn't guaranteed to have a negative connotation; however, when you fail to stand up for yourself where defense is warranted, another underlying problem arises. It's important to have a backbone and be your most reliable friend when confrontation does ensue.
4. You Don't Do Well Under Pressure
In Masini's words, "People who habitually avoid confrontation are not comfortable with the stress it elicits. They’ve learned the hard way that the stress of confrontation makes them uncomfortable, so they avoid it the way a kid who touches a hot stove learns not to do so in future. If it hurts enough, people will avoid it."
When a given circumstance signals you to either fight or flight where confrontation could offer, the easiest decision is to walk away. The pressure mounts and perceived stress is followed by sweat, an increased heartrate, and worry, and your gut reaction to is avoid the situation altogether.
5. You Value The Status Quo
"People who avoid confrontation tend to value peace and a status quo. They don’t like excitement and they prefer routine where they have a better chance of achieving an absence of confrontation," Masini tells me via email. You avoid confrontation by not veering off track. You like to know what to expect in your days, from beginning to end.
6. You're Open-Minded
Your friends might value your flexibiltiy of opinion; you find it easy to see both sides of a disagreement, but you'd rather not voice your personal view on any given matter, should it sway heavily in one direction or another.
Masini further explains this point, saying, "People who avoid confrontation will keep it light when it comes to conversation. They will avoid and change any conversation that has to do with conflict or hot button topics. They skim the surface of conversation and value experiences over deep expression because it’s easier for them to take."
7. You're Hardworking
Tessina suggests people who avoid confrontation may be very hard workers, seeking to please the person by doing so. In general, hardworking individuals have their minds in many different places, striving to achieve the most within a short period of time or even at once.
It's possible that as a person who aims to satisfy not only yourself but also those around you, avoiding confrontation is often the most lucrative route.
8. You Harbor Emotion
"[People who avoid confrontation] may be quite angry underneath, from years of self-repression. They can be withdrawn, but not always," according to Tessina.
It's possible, common, and fair to harbor emotion over years of habitually avoiding confrontation, and consequently not standing up for yourself. If you find yourself holding grudges or failing to express your emotions, it's likely a result of this tendency.
9. You Easily Shut Down
"People who avoid confrontation feel like a helpless child around the angry person, who seems like a parent, so they don’t have the power to stand up. If you can remember you are an adult and the equal of the person you need to confront, it will be easier," Tessina explains.
In any interpersonal encounter, it's important to remember we are all the same here. Every person is entitled to an opinion, emotions, thoughts, values, and morals, however they may differ. Your mistakes or achievements, strengths or weaknesses, do not compromise this fact.
No matter what your personality type, or preference to confronting an issue head-on or fleeing from it, Masini suggests, "It’s best to try and articulate a problem without emotion or blame and ask for what you want — whether it’s a discussion, a particular resolution or something else." Whether with a close friend, family member, or acquaintance, approach every issue with a calm head on your shoulders and a civil demeanor to reach a solution without creating conflict.
On the other hand, the habit of avoiding conflict frequently translates to failing to stand up for yourself when necessary. To combat this issue before it becomes a deep-seated tendency that negatively affects self-esteem, Tessina says, "It’s very important to learn to stand up for yourself. Self-esteem is having a healthy respect for who you are, and seeing yourself in a reasonable positive way. The more emotionally mature you are, the more able you are to form your own independent opinion."