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Six Ways You May be Avoiding Constructive Conflict and Losing Friends











Conflict with others, especially perceived and actual rejection, can be quite painful. Calling a friend after you’ve repeatedly made and cancelled plans may seem as difficult as piecing back shattered glass. Giving in to the urge to just avoid conflicts and let friendships go may cost you relationships that you don’t really want to lose. Being connected with others involves some form of conflict, whether it’s about you letting the other person down or the other person not coming through for you in some way.

One of the first steps to stopping the avoidance is awareness of ways you may justify or talk yourself into not facing upsets, anticipated criticisms, disagreements, or other conflict. Here’s a few statements that you might be using to support your avoidance of what could be a relationship repair or relationship building interaction, cause that’s what constructive convict actually is.

Some justifying thoughts for avoiding resolving issues include the following:

1.  It’s up to her or him to come to me.  If the other person did something to upset you, you may believe your friend needs to come to you to apologize or work out the issue because they were at fault. If you were the one who said or did something, you may think your friend should come to you if they want to continue being friends. In truth, who was at fault is not the issue.  If the relationship is important to you, then take action to protect it.

2.  I don’t need this in my life.  I’m done with you.  Giving up relationships whenever there is conflict can seem justified in the moment, particularly if there has been a miscommunication or an incorrect assumption by the other person. It’s hard to remember that everyone makes mistakes and you’ve probably made mistakes too.

3.  She obviously doesn’t care so why should I?  When you have a disagreement with someone you care about, it’s easy to assume that her silence or anger means she doesn’t value the relationship. This thought often comes from feeling hurt and can be a way of protecting yourself. Clearly, though, this assumption or interpretation doesn’t help you save the relationship.

4.  I am an awful friend and I just can’t face them.  In this situation you judge yourself harshly and are perhaps ashamed of something you’ve said or done, though your shame may not be justified.  Though it probably isn’t your intention, having this mindset

5.  Surely he’ll change if  he understands how wrong he is or how much he is hurting me. This thought usually leads to volatile arguments and extensive efforts to convince the other person they are wrong or hurtful.  However loud accusations and angry speeches rarely moves people to work on relationships.

6.  I’ll withdraw so the person knows something is wrong. Ill tell others who can tell them for me.  While this approach keeps the conflict indirect, it can also damage relationships. In strong relationships, trust that you will be honest with each other is usually part of the unspoken agreement. Honest communication is directly with the specific person involved.

Maybe the main issue is that your moods lead you to be unpredictable.  At those times you think  I will contact friends when I am doing better.  Repeatedly withdrawing from friendships when you are upset or depressed can lead those you love to see you as unreliable or unpredictable.

While avoiding resolving conflicts damages relationships, it’s also important to take care of yourself.  Finding the balance can be a challenge.  Looking at the avoidance thoughts in a different way may be helpful.

1.  Ask for time.  When it feels too scary to approach someone and you just want to let them come to you, consider taking some time to help yourself get ready. Maybe let the other person know that you want to talk and care about the relationship, so you need some time to be sure you say what you want to say.  Then you can work on calming your fears and being clear about what you want to say. You may want to get some positive support from others.

2.  Remember that this situation is not the whole relationship.  Push yourself to think of the positives as well as the negatives about this friendship. Consider never ending a friendship when you are angry.  Making such an important decision would best be done when you are thinking more logically and less emotionally.

3.  Assume the best about others, with wisdom.  Until you have facts, assume the best about friends.  Assume they do care about you.

4.  Be compassionate with yourself. Just like you would be caring to others, know that everyone makes mistakes and how you handle the missteps may make a difference.

5. Explaining your perspective can be helpful if done in a caring way. Both your own and the other person’s viewpoints may be accurate, just different.  Understanding both (you don’t have to agree) can help you find a way to move forward together.

6.  Make a commitment to talk directly with the person who upset you and not criticize her to others. If you want help with how to talk with the person or in managing your emotions, that is different than expressing  your emotions about the person to others. Work to keep your focus on valuing the relationship.

Sometimes it is not about conflict.  Perhaps your mood overwhelms you to the point that being with others is not an option. When you have periods of time that you just can’t be sociable,  let people know. They are much more likely to be open to continuing the friendship when they know the reason you are not available for periods of time.

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Six Ways You May be Avoiding Constructive Conflict and Losing Friends

Karyn Hall, PhD

Karyn Hall, Ph.D. is the owner/director of the Dialectical Behavior Therapy Center in Houston, a DBT-Linehan Board of Certification, Certified Clinician, a RO DBT Approved Supervisor and Trainer and owner of, an online educational program. She is a trainer/consultant as well as a therapist and certified coach, author of The Emotionally Sensitive Person, SAVVY, Mindfulness Exercises for DBT Therapists, and co-author of The Power of Validation. Her podcast, The Emotionally Sensitive Person, is available on iTunes.

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APA Reference
Hall, K. (2014). Six Ways You May be Avoiding Constructive Conflict and Losing Friends. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 19, 2020, from


Last updated: 17 Sep 2014
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