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I'm extremely conflict avoidant. I am a peace-keeper in group situations because I hate watching people fight. When it involves me directly, I will do almost anything to push it off or avoid it. This inevitably does nothing but cause me to agonize for more time over the problem before addressing it, at which point it is often worse.

I hate haggling and negotiating. I'll take the raw end of a deal to avoid the conflict involved in getting a better one. I'm not a competitive person and people who are very competitive often don't get along with me because I don't play along with it.

I often catastrophize that the person is going to completely blow up on me and scream but that has never happened to me even once. Still, I drive myself insane waiting for the inevitable second where the conflict has to start. If I'm thrown into conflict unexpectedly I often handle it well, it's just when I know it's coming that I break down.

The only source for this I can think of is that my dad had a short temper when we were younger and would lose it over really small inconveniences. It was rarely directed at us and never physical (sorry waitstaff, cashiers, dad's employees) but as a child it made me feel sad/awkward to see and I'm sure that's had some lasting effect. He started taking medication when I was a teenager and it quickly stopped.

Example: I quit my job recently in favor of a new one. I was going to talk to my boss Thursday but didn't because I was afraid. Then Friday he was out and I wanted to do it in person (i.e. making up reasons to push it off). Over the weekend I was so stressed I mostly lost my appetite, I was constantly catching myself clenching my jaw, and now I've even developed a cold (possibly unrelated to it but I've heard stress can weaken your immune system). My boss has only ever been perfectly nice to me and during he was understanding and congratulated me on my new job. Walking into his office I thought I was going to pass out and my voice (I'm a mid 20s male) went up an octave and was at half volume for the entire conversation. It was completely involuntary, I was trying to lower/louden my voice so I seemed more serious/confident and I could not.

I don't have self esteem issues, I'm not depressed, and I'm a generally happy and fulfilled person. I just can't stand conflict.

I do not like this trait about myself but I don't know how to fix it. I am not looking to actively incite conflict but I want to learn to handle it without tensing up so much I'm sore for days after.

  • Is it general disagreement that you're avoiding, or is it possible raised voices, or harsh words, etc – jcmack Sep 25 '18 at 22:41
  • @jcmack The latter. I don't mind discussions with friends where we disagree but I know the friend is level headed and isn't going to get upset about it. I love hearing others' viewpoints, even if they're opposite my own. – brenzo Sep 26 '18 at 15:40
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I am no doctor, but it sounds like you have pretty serious anxiety, possibly stemming from your home life. Regardless, the best advice I can give you is to go and see someone, a professional. Even if it is just once.

Short of that I would suggest 2 things that helped me as I have gone through a similar thing, not as extreme as you describe but close.

  1. Always ask myself what is the worst that can happen. Really think, it is often not bad at all, like in the boss example. Now this on its own is not going to make you feel any better about doing it, but it is going to logically make sense in your head that there is no really bad outcome, you will be safe, so to speak. Then just do it. Again this is an easy thing to write, and read, a much more difficult one to actually do. You will feel so nervous and anxious, your hands will get sweaty, you'll get that weird feeling when you are on something high and you look down and electricity goes through your body, but you just need to do it. (These may vary, but it is what happened to me) Doing it once, won't solve your problem, and that feeling never seems to go, but every time you push through you get a little bit better at it and its a little easier the next time.

  2. The friends with conflicts part. This to me is fairly simple. If you are not comfortable around them, then they are probably not your best choice of friend and you should probably try to find others, they are out there and you will feel better. Personally here is where I differ significantly, as I love conflicts between other, being the voice of reason and calm. But in a similar fashion hate when that is directed to me. Your two options are to get used to it or find new friends. That's blunt but it really is that simple.

In general and in answer to your primary question I would recommend you see a professional and talk about these things, maybe they get to some root, or maybe they prescribe something, but as I said it sounds like pretty severe anxiety, and you should really talk to someone with proper knowledge on your history.

  • Thanks, I'll look into it when my new healthcare kicks in. I've thought about it for a while but honestly didn't realize how bad it sounded until I read my own post here. – brenzo Sep 26 '18 at 23:16
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I´d second @Negotiate´s advice to see a Professional and see if he can help you in a more personal manner.

Other than that, I can recommend you look into taking up a hobby where you can train theses situations in a less serious environment. This could be anything where you discuss and have controversy with other people. For example impro-theater, debate club, book club or Live action roleplaying come to mind.

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You can practice by asking a friend to help you practice. Have an argument with them (artificial, of course) and practice. Say there is only one cheese sandwich in the shop, you both want it, you both have the exact same right to get it, so practice how you get it. (I suppose that’s a situation we’re you’d normally lose out). And no sharing. You must leave with the sandwich.

Of course do this at home, not in the sandwich shop.

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I have sort of similar problem as you. I am pretty good at solving other's problems (successfully) but I can't keep a level head when it gets too personal.

In my case I know if I am going to face a difficult situation/problem , I talk to someone close and tell them the problem. Then I just follow whatever they say or get them to mediate, if need be. Sometime that third person advice/motivation just gets me clear and going. If I am going be bad at it, why not just reach out for someone who is good?.

I am lucky in the sense, I have few friends who are mature/trustable enough to help me get a perspective. Since you are always the mediator I think people will be happy to help you. Maybe I don't understand your situation exactly but hopefully this may work for you to.

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