How can we overcome the fear of conflict in a relationship?


It was long thought that if a couple had few or no arguments, avoided them systematically or settled them by abuse of authority, it was a good sign. It was accepted that arguing, opposing was wrong. The assertion by psychologists and sociologists that conflict is an integral part of relationships and has beneficial aspects is relatively recent.

According to Saint-Exupéry, we live “not from things, but from the meaning of things”. So let us learn to find the meaning of our conflicts.

What is a relationship?

A relationship is not the fusion of two beings who become one, but two very distinct persons who exchange with each other. You may have convergent opinions, a common life, rich and deep exchanges etc., but you remain two beings who are different from each other. In spite of love and attachment, each remains in control of his own being. This means that when conflict breaks out, each one defends his or her inner or physical territory.

What is a conflict?

There is conflict when there is a transition from the acceptance and serene, peaceful, mature and constructive expression of differences, disagreements and divergences, to opposition, antagonism, confrontation, struggle, aggression, intolerance, rejection, incomprehension…

All manifestations which, if they are not prevented and/or managed, have a negative impact, even in a violent and destructive way:

fear of conflict in a relationship
  • the relationship between one’s self and one’s self,
  • and/or the relationship between oneself and another person or persons,
  • And /or the functioning of the team, of the group,
  • and/or performance,
  • And/or the well-being of one’s self and others.

Conflict is often a combination of three situations: tension > crisis > conflict.

Tensions are due to divergences, differences, oppositions of points of view, ideas for solutions, objectives, values…

Crisis is a kind of inflammation, a kind of tightness due to mismanagement of tension.

To resolve a crisis situation, you have to be able to move from postures:

  • from closing, rejecting to opening postures, listening,
  • Opposition to postures of apposition (putting side by side the different points of view…),
  • From egotism to postures of consideration for others.

Conflicts are the result of unresolved crises. So we’re moving into confrontation.

How to stop being afraid of conflict

While conflict is inevitable and can be positive, let’s look at 9 approaches to help you deal with it.

1. Revise your beliefs

The first thing you can do to better cope with life’s inevitable conflicts is to review your beliefs about them. How do you see conflict? What does it mean to you to be in conflict with someone? What were you taught about this when you were young?

If you have received the message that the conflict was a bad thing that you shouldn’t be in trouble with someone, that it’s not right, then you’re going to have a hard time accepting the situation. You’re going to feel guilty and you won’t be able to find solutions to the problem.

So start by rethinking the way you see things. We suggest other forms of beliefs such as: “Conflicts are sometimes creative, they help develop assertiveness, empathy and interpersonal communication».

Your move…

2. Try to understand the person with whom you have a problem.

When we are caught up in conflict, our stress level increases and we have a tendency to close in on ourselves. Stress provokes protection, defense and attack reflexes. Rather than getting stuck in this archaic mechanism, it is much more productive to try to understand what motivates the person with whom you are in conflict. What is causing her suffering, what is she afraid of? What is he or she trying to achieve, what does he or she need?

conflict in a relationship

3. Accept that there is a disagreement…

When you’ve tried to talk to the person you’re talking to and come to the conclusion that you have a different view of the situation, or of incompatible wants and needs, the first thing to do is simply…acknowledge it!

It is part of life that everyone has a specific view of the world and there are as many points of view as there are people in the same situation.

So there is no need to try to convince the other person that he or she should not see things that way; it is his or her right, as is yours, to have that view of the situation.

4. Discover true assertiveness

Assertiveness is the quality of being self-confident and self-assured without being aggressive.

If you feel inferior to the person you meet, then you are in a depreciation of yourself.

If you consider yourself superior to the person you meet, then you are in dominance. And in fact, there is probably a lack of self-confidence that you prefer to “fill” by believing yourself to be more important than the other person.

Assertiveness is the ability to recognize that both you and the other are entitled to an opinion and have your reasons in a given situation.

In a conflict, there is simply the meeting of two people who both have the right to have their point of view.

5. Accept your personality type

Depending on the personality type, each person will experience the conflict in a very specific way. And some personality profiles will find it easier than others to cope with adversity and relational tensions.

Personality types that are more task oriented, focused on the mental aspect of a situation rather than on the emotional and relational side will have much less difficulty with relational conflicts. These types of people will find it easier to distance themselves from their emotions and take refuge behind their beliefs and convictions. 

If, on the other hand, your gateway is the emotional and relational, you will be much more sensitive to your environment and human tensions will affect you more. It is mainly a question of recognizing and accepting it.

6. Develop your self-confidence

One of the major reasons why our stress level increases in a relational conflict is that we feel that we will not be able to cope with the consequences of this conflict. When you have a difficulty with someone, a series of automatic thoughts start to occur in your mind. Negative thoughts will generate feelings of fear, anger, revolt…

Self confidence

You are afraid of not being loved, of not being accepted in the group, of being judged in a negative way, of being pointed at…

When you have enough self-confidence, you can more easily accept to be temporarily put aside and that you have the ability to find your way by yourself even if it becomes necessary.

As we often say, self-confidence is not something that is taken for granted, it is something that is developed and nurtured. 

7. Improve your communication

When a conflict has broken out and you are caught up in a tense exchange with the other, the last thing you want is to escalate the situation. However, under the stress of confrontation, that’s usually what happens. Without meaning to, we lose our good manners, our language precautions go off the rails, and the consequences on the situation are disastrous.

8. A quick reminder:

You kills! ». This means that you must absolutely avoid blaming the other person by addressing him/her with phrases like: “You did this, you did that, it is you who …» A conflict can only be resolved if communication is re-established and communication can only be re-established if there is a drop in emotional tension. 

However, talking to the other person in “you” increases the tension and your interlocutor is no longer looking for a solution but concentrates his energy on defending himself from your accusations. Therefore, prefer to express your feelings by saying: “I prefer this, I felt attacked, and it doesn’t suit me”.

Also avoid using “always” and “never”. “It’s always like that with you, you never do the right thing… “…

Be more specific about what happened by using phrases such as: “the last two times we saw each other, at our last meeting”. Or use “often, regularly, most of the time or rarely…” instead of always and never.

9. Meditate more often

More and more people are talking about the benefits of meditation. Meditation is very beneficial!

Get into the habit of meditating a few minutes a day in a way that suits you. This simply means being at peace with yourself. You can do this by cooking, gardening, running…or by doing Yoga, or Mindfulness.

The goal is to strengthen that place within you where you can find peace and serenity and be able to return there more easily when you are faced with a difficult situation.

In case of conflict, the person who is used to meditating can more easily regain his or her calm and bring about a state of appeasement for the person in front of him or her through sympathy. This requires practice, of course, but it is possible…

You’ve always thought about it but you’ve never taken the time to meditate…

Bottom line!

Here, we hope that we have brought you some tools that will help you to better cope with life‘s inevitable conflicts.

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