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Pitfalls of avoiding tough conversations in the workplace

Updated: Dec 1, 2022


There are serious consequences when we avoid conflicts. When we don't say what's on our mind or choose to ignore a problem, it can lead to more issues down the road.


We live in a society that values politeness and kindness, so we're taught from a young age not to offend others and to avoid confrontation whenever possible. This can lead us to ignore problems when they arise, hoping they'll go away on their own. But when we avoid tough conversations, the issues that need to be addressed continue to grow until they become too big to ignore - at which point it's no longer possible to be polite about it.


When we avoid conflicts, we're doing more than just avoiding confrontation - we're also running away from opportunities. When we fail to share an opinion or tell someone how we really feel about something, we lose out on a chance for progress and growth. There are many reasons why people avoid conflict, but none of them are worth the loss of valuable relationships or opportunities for growth. Here are the top four reasons why you should never avoid conflict:


1. It hurts your relationship with others. When we choose not to say what's on our mind, it can create a wall between us and others that grows over time. We may think we're being polite by keeping silent, but in reality we're hurting the relationship. The issue will continue to grow until it becomes too big to ignore - at which point you'll be forced to confront it.


2. It hurts your relationship with yourself. When we ignore issues, it's like telling a lie - and lying is always bad for the soul. Not addressing an issue means that you're lying to yourself about how you really feel about something. And when you're dishonest with yourself, it can lead to more problems down the road.


3. It leads to bigger issues in every area of life. Problems don't exist in a vacuum - they affect all aspects of our lives. When we ignore issues, they don't just go away - they continue to grow until they affect other areas of our relationships and careers. You might be able to get away with ignoring an issue in one area of your life, but it will always come back to haunt you when you least expect it.


4. It makes you look weak. There's a good chance that others have noticed the ways in which you avoid conflict. They may know what you're trying to hide and when you avoid conflict, it sends the message that you're not willing to stand up for what's right or speak your mind when needed - which makes others think that you can't handle a real situation.


If we want to take charge of our lives and make positive changes in every area, then we need to learn how to address issues head-on. It takes courage to face problems and share opinions. Here are steps to pressing forward and having tough conversations.


  1. Focus on using “I” (oldie but goodie and still very effective). Example: “I feel like I’m not being heard when you interrupt me.”

  2. Know exactly what you want out of the conversation. If it’s, “I told you so,” that’s more about being validated and heard. Here’s a better way to say it: “I need to know that my opinion matters to you.”

  3. Create a safe space for all involved. Example: Allow time for each person to express fully. No raising voices and no blaming.

  4. Be curious, listen, and practice compassion.

  5. It’s a process and takes practice. It may take more than one conversation.

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