It happens often: your boss has asked you to do something you really don’t have time for (and is definitely outside of your job description), but you figure you’ll update that spreadsheet anyway because really, why argue? When faced with confrontation, your mind repeats “cool” about five thousand times in Jake Peralta’s voice, because the rest of your body is Amy Santiago-ing — must not upset your superior officer at any cost. If you’re the type to avoid confrontation as much as possible, it doesn’t mean you don’t ever stand up for yourself — it just means that asserting what you need might not be your first instinct. And you can learn a lot about yourself based on how you respond when presented with a potential showdown.
“Your ability to cope, life experiences, what was modeled by those around you and the implicit and explicit messages you received while you were growing up related to gender, race, culture, society, socioeconomic status, familial expectation and so many more variables can play a role in how a person approaches (or doesn’t approach) conflict,” says psychotherapist Lillyana Morales, L.M.H.C. That’s why not all people who tend to avoid confrontation have the same kind of personalities, but there are some common threads — “Just walk away” might be a habitual refrain, for example. Read on for 18 personality traits of conflict-averse people.
Someone who avoids confrontation may simply feel a fight isn’t worth the energy, which results in either walking away or changing the subject before it escalates. In other words, you pick and choose your battles wisely. Analyzing a situation before it reaches a point of no return amounts to no wasted breath and no harm, no foul.
You’re A People-Pleaser
“Not wanting to upset others is a common driver of conflict avoidance,” says Sherese Ezelle, L.M.H.C., a licensed behavioral therapist at One Medical. You might know that you need to tell your bestie that no, it’s not OK to cancel your plans for the fourth time in a row with no explanation. But you tell yourself, “Hey, whatever they’ve got going on is important too.” And while that might be the case, it might be second nature for you to rank your own needs as less important than others’ — and maybe not even mention them.
If you’ve been in a volatile relationship before, you’ve seen where confrontation can lead. Foresight warns you that confrontation may not be worth the potential result, which leads to avoidance. “[Someone who avoids confrontation] may feel that the relationship they have with the person provoking them is too valuable to damage with an argument,” explains April Masini, a New York-based relationship and etiquette expert and author.
You’re Laid Back
You might also avoid conflict because you’re just a chill person. “We all have a window of tolerance, and the size of this window varies from person to person,” Morales says. Your tolerance might be high because you’re good at letting things roll off your back. It genuinely doesn’t bother you when all that much when other people are clearly in the wrong — they’ll figure it out on their own time. And meanwhile, you’ve got some video games to catch up on. No point stressing over things you can’t control, right?
If you would most definitely never write an entire album about your ex, Olivia Rodrigo-style, you might just have a more passive personality, says Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., a psychotherapist and author of It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction. “Volatile people are familiar (as in family) and they tend to gravitate toward them, but then they are too avoidant to stand up for themselves, so they placate them.” Passivity isn’t always a bad thing, but when you don’t stand up for yourself where you should, the negative feels are bound to bottle up.
You Could Use A Confidence Booster
You may need to give yourself some extra pep talks before you say you reaaally want to order pizza for your birthday, knowing it’s not your girlfriend’s favorite. “Avoiding conflict can be well-intentioned, and you can learn how to help it grow and shift if that is what you desire,” Morales tells Bustle. Practicing having confidence in yourself — and affirming that your needs matter — can be a big part of your fight, freeze, or Amy Santiago journey.
You Don’t Do Well Under Pressure
Getting burned before is a pretty quick way to teach you to avoid fights. “[Conflict-avoidant folks] learned the hard way that the stress of confrontation makes them uncomfortable, so they avoid it the way a kid who touches a hot stove learns not to do so in future,” Masini says.