How To Overcome Fear Of Confrontation Or Conflict
Do you find yourself avoiding conflict? When you’re in the office working with colleagues, do you notice that you have a fear of confrontation? If so, know that you’re not alone! In a recent study, the Anxiety & Depression Association of America found that 40 million adults have anxiety, or around 18% of the population. There are many ways to face your anxiety head-on and tackle your fears of confrontation.
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Be mindful and consider these questions
Before you dive into mastering a new therapy technique, take some time to review the following questions. The time for reflection will help you process why you fear and avoid conflict and give you insight as you move forward:
- Do you fear confrontation because of your past? Was there something in your upbringing that caused anxiety? Traumatic experiences can often decrease your self worth, confidence and comfort in stressful situations.
- Are you a people pleaser? If you always aim to please the people in your life, conflict could cause you to withdraw from stressful situations.
- Were you ever bullied? Cyberbullying is a significant issue online, but it doesn’t just happen to children and teenagers. Cyberbullying occurs among 50% of adults ages 30-49. This sort of experience can trigger painful memories for anyone as they revisit conflict.
- Do you find you lack the confidence to share your opinion? Being unsure of yourself or feeling like you can’t keep up in a conversation can hamper anyone’s desire to speak out during a conflict.
Readjust your mindset
Conflict is part of life. While it might not be an enjoyable part of your existence, there are ways you can grow from your experiences with conflict if you allow it.
Write it down: Go ahead and list why avoiding confrontation can cause problems in your life. Likely you find yourself feeling stressed at the end of the day. Maybe you even fear people won’t accept you and your opinions because of the way you are. Become your advocate: What will you gain by sharing your thoughts? Your relationships will deepen, people will know how you feel, and others in your life will meet your emotional needs. Communication is key!
Take deep breaths: Do you find you lack the confidence to share your thoughts during a confrontation? If you wish to improve your speaking skills, try taking deep breaths to calm and gather your thoughts. Practice sharing your thoughts with people you trust, like your friends and family. Embrace your new mindset: Start small and continue building on your newfound conflict-positive philosophy. Remember to advocate for yourself. Practice your speaking skills in various scenarios until you’re ready to test them out in a real confrontation.
Soon you’ll possess an entire arsenal of techniques to fight your anxiety.
Become more assertive
Being nice isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Nice people often sacrifice their physical and mental health to keep up appearances. Sure, be kind to others. But be kind to yourself, too. And know this – assertive isn’t aggressive. Assertive is being confident, decisive, and a self-advocate. You want all of those things, right? Then become assertive! Here’s how:
Use “I” statements
Use assertive “I” statements to express what you’re thinking or feeling. However, word these statements to be utterly respectful of others’ feelings. Keep in mind that your body language also comes into play when using “I” statements. It’s best to keep a composed, approachable demeanor when communicating with others.
Construct your own “I” statement by following these steps:
- Start with the word “I.”
- Identify and add the verb you’re currently feeling to your statement (e.g. dislike, like, love, hate, feel, wish, etc.).
- Complete your statement and describe your entire feeling (e.g. I dislike it when we don’t have time to watch our shows together after dinner).
For best results, keep the word “you” out of your statement. It will keep your sentiment assertive yet deferential. Start small with “I” statements, using them with family and friends. As you grow more comfortable with the language, you’ll grow more confident expressing yourself. Creating “I” statements and using aggressive language will help you advocate for yourself when you face conflict in the workplace and at home.
Embrace exposure therapy
The goal of exposure therapy is a slow yet steady victory over the anxiety you face during a confrontation. Exposure therapy is, as it sounds, dosing you to the thing you fear. In this case, it’s anxiety.
You can choose to visualize the situation in which you’ll be exposing yourself. Imaginal exposure is ideal if you don’t have a partner you can easily borrow for the exercise. However, you’ll eventually want and need to experience conflict in real life.
In vivo exposure
The other option in exposure therapy practice is to ask another person to participate in your exercise and act out the scenario together. This option provides a much more realistic experience and provides the feeling of conflict within a safe environment. Below are a few situation ideas you can explore with your partner:
- You’re late to work, and your boss yells at you.
- Your co-worker disagrees with how you’ve decided to research the latest project. She asks you to share your opinion.
- During an all-staff meeting, it’s your turn to report, and you get choked up and can’t speak.
When you visualize a scenario alone or practice with a partner, starting small and building on each experience is crucial. In time, your tolerance for conflict will grow and your anxiety will lessen.
Find calm and be well
Implementing any of these techniques and therapies should do wonders in helping you overcome your fear of confrontation. Remember: changing your mindset about conflict is key to your growth and well-being!
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