I'm a Conflict Avoider, Please Don't Get Mad!

Why deal with something when you can NOT deal with it?

May 22, 2012 at 12:00pm | Leave a comment

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Way too sensitive

When you get into a conflict with someone you:

a)Sit down on the couch with some tea and biscuits and talk things out like reasonable adults.
b) Ha! Reasonable my ass -- open the cupboard and start hurling the Fiestawear at the wall behind the offender’s head.
or c) stuff your purse with valuables and hightail it on out of there.

I am, and surely forever will be, inclined to run. While some people gravitate toward drama, I try to steer as far clear as is humanly possible. With me, flight has predominantly been favored over fight. Why deal with something that might make somebody feel bad when you can not deal with it?

Even supposedly humorous conflict in movies gives me a knot of anxiety in my stomach. Random example:  I always have to make a sandwich near the end of "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" when Steve Martin tells John Candy’s character that he is horribly annoying. Poor John Candy!

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Oh God, please don't hurt his feelings!

My particular brand of feelings-sparing avoidance might stem partly from growing up as an only child. I've noticed that people with siblings tend to have a better sense of conflict and are less disturbed by it. 

When I was a kid, I rarely got in trouble. It wasn’t that I was a spoiled brat -- though good God, you should have seen my mountain of Christmas presents -- I was mostly just shy and quiet and honestly, and I know you won’t believe this, but I just didn’t do that much wrong. If I did do something questionable, all my mom or grandma would have to do to punish me would be to look at me with their eyebrows raised. I would burst into bitter tears of remorse. 

As an adult, I am not good at fighting. Which is weird because I love to argue. I will take a stance on music, movies, and the Middle East, but as soon as it gets personal, I’m out. I hate more than anything to see someone’s feelings get hurt. Even if they have proven that they are quite a nasty person, I will avoid saying things that will make them feel bad. 

If you’re trying to fight with me, be warned, it won’t be easy. When I see conflict coming, my mind just blanks and my heart thuds manically and all I see or remember later is a bright, empty light. I just freeze and stare, just stand there like a stupefied like a deer in the path of a runaway garbage truck. Then I run -- to the bedroom, into the kitchen, out the door, anywhere. 

Writing this, I realize that just as often as I’m concerned about the other person’s feelings, it is myself I’m often worried about injuring. I am just as afraid -- if not more, since I very rarely have the impulse to say nasty things to people -- of someone saying something mean to me that I won’t be able to forget.

Not surprisingly, my conflict avoidance has the tendency to end poorly for both parties. People still get hurt even when you’re not in the room fighting with them.

I’m trying to get better. As an extremely sensitive person, it isn’t easy. Now, when I don’t like something I always tell a person. I stand up for myself. I’m still bad at fighting though.

“Baby Steps,” as they said in "What About Bob?" Not that I've seen most of it. I was in the kitchen, pretending to make a sandwich.