« Conflict at Work? | Main | Better Meetings: Decide How To Decide »


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference What To Do When People Avoid Conflict?:


John DeFlumeri Jr

Non-verbals, to me, are the scariest part of any conflicts, because our imagines run WILD!

John DeFlumeri Jr

peter vajda

Some thoughts, Steve:

John FeFlumeri makes a great point. Many folks are really not well-versed in reading non-verbals (interested? yes, well-versed? no) - the folks who say, "Gee, I once read that when someone folds their arms, they..." or "Gee, X said that when someone looks away, they..." and they fill in the blank with a response - a judgmental behavior that is neat, simple, quick, and most often, incorrect.

I said it before in this thread and will say it again, when folks have their hip-pocket conflict resolution guide (or other quick-fix management or leadership guide or "x-steps" how-to technology) and yet don't know how to have an open, honest and sincere conversation, a dialogue, conflict (and mis-management) will usually abound.

I like your questions and "invitations," above. The kicker, for me, is that if one who is usually conflict averse feels physiologically uncomfortable asking/answering such questions, inviting others "in," and thus doesn't, and yet is still rushing to "logically" and "cognitively" get to a "resolution," there's a good chance they, themselves, are contributing to the conflict.

I think one of the issues that augurs against folks engaging in constructive conflict experiences is one's need to be right. If that's the operating principe, then conflict avoidance rules the day. I think it serves folks well to take a moment and reflect on their relationships at work, (and at home and at play) and ask, “How much does the ‘I’m right – you’re wrong’ dynamic play out in my everyday interactions?” The answer often will point to the degree to which one is willing and able to engage in conflict resolution experiences.

Lastly, the element of "trust" is paramount. If one has a workplace history of not being open, not engaging others from a heart-felt place, of being judgmental and critical, of needing to be right, of being political, etc., then, "pulling out my conflict resolution guide" at 9 am Monday and assuming a "we" role vs. an historical "me" vs. you" role, and does not create a container of safety beforehand (that takes conscious and intentional "work"), then I would bet that conflict resolution efforts will be of little to no avail, or that, yes, conflict might be resolved but at the expense of morale while (further) alienating a lot of folks.

Rodney Johnson

I would add another, Steve. This would be to create a language that would make it less confrontational, less direct, less insulting, yet more effective. I've discussed the term "silent problem" on your blog before - these are problems that are being avoided, neglected or going unnoticed. And if you have a silent problem, 95+% of the time, the problem will grow in intensity and toxicity over time. When an organization embeds the silent problem structure into the common language of the organization, it takes much of the confrontational nature out of the equation, yet elevates the problem. This is a win-win proposition. Embedding the silent problem language is possibly one of the most important things an organization could do to elevate performance.

Rachel Playfair

Speaking as a person with a natural tendency to avoid conflict, myself (but working to overcome this) those are excellent suggestions, Steve. If most partners, co-workers, managers etc. adopted those practices, there would, indeed, be little reason to avoid expressing thoughts which go against the flow. Not the case, unfortunately. It's enough to send a recovering conflict avoider back into the closet!

Karl Staib - Work Happy Now

When someone does stick their neck out and fails we have a tendency to attack. We have to quell this habit and give them support. The greatest ideas are usually the riskiest.

I've been guilty of this, but recently I've been taking a few deep breaths before I respond. This gives me time to find appreciation for the person who tried something new.

Steve Roesler


That one-liner speaks a huge truth.

Although we see people on TV and in print who claim to be able to accurately interpret a single movement, it just isn't so. And, indeed, the mind tends to race to provide meaning (it abhors a vacuum and is more than happy to have it filled with anything but space!).

To put things into perspective: What we need to be aware of is that something isn't "matching" and take that as a sign to ask for information or clarification and not to offer an interpretation.

Thanks for opening the discussion with that.

Steve Roesler


Well laid out.

I'm voting for the "I'm right/you're wrong" posture as the one that most gets in the way of deep, thorough discussion. I don't even think we all even need "resolution" if we really know that we've been heard, considered, and then hear honestly what the other person's position is and why.

Steve Roesler


I was wondering if you would weigh in on this, since the issue has to do with a "silent problem". You don't disappoint:-)

Your approach to the issue addresses the issue by giving it a name. And we do better once we've named something rather than treating it as something amorphous.

I'm sure some of our readers will latch onto the "silent problem" concept. . .

Steve Roesler


That's darned honest of you. And risky to put your own challenge in print. I applaud you.

It's also a useful reminder to (all) the rest of us to take those deep breaths (there's a good physiological and psychological reason why "deep breathing" exercises reduce stress).

BTW: Had a client who was one step away from the top position at his company. Unbelievably successful at making/exceeding the numbers and even with direct reports. However, the killer instinct with others led to outplacement.

Deep breathing seems like a very small price to pay. . .

Steve Roesler


Print it out, pass it around, and see if you can generate support in creating a change that will make a genuine difference.

bba india

I’m really impressed with your article. Cool in looks informative in Material

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

My Photo

Steve Roesler, Principal & Founder
The Steve Roesler Group
Office: 609.654.7376
Mobile: 856.275.4002

Enter your name and email address to receive your copy of my coaching eGuide.

Leadership & Influence Blog
Business Blogs



  • View Steve Roesler's profile on LinkedIn
Personal Growth from SelfGrowth.com

Get Updates via RSS Feed

  • Enter your email address in the yellow box for FREE daily updates

    Powered by FeedBlitz

Awards & Recognition...

  • Career 100
Alltop, all the top stories Add to Technorati Favorites