Conflict avoidance can be a major stumbling block in resolving ongoing problems in any relationship or organization. Awareness is the first step toward solution. Concealment is a common passive-aggressive response to conflict. Concealers prefer to take little or no risk, so they say nothing, concealing their views and feelings.
There are three common types of concealment:
1. Feeling-swallowers smile even if they are reacting to a situation with distress. They do this because they consider the approval of other people important and feel that it would be dangerous to affront them by revealing their true feelings.
2. Subject changers, finding the real issue too difficult to handle, change the topic by finding something on which there can be some agreement with the conflicting party. This style of response rarely solves the underlying problem and can create a false sense of harmony and agreement (the biggest problem with communication is the illusion it has occurred). As a result, problems are never resolved.
3. Chronic avoiders are those who go out of their way to avoid conflicts and people with whom they have disagreements.
Caveat: Not all disagreements need to be worked out. Agreeing to politely disagree may be an efficient, time-saving strategy. It can be a good technique to first emphasize and affirm areas of agreement prior to discussing challenging areas as long as significant roadblock issues are eventually addressed.
“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crisis maintain their neutrality.” – John F. Kennedy, attributed by him to Dante (Wikipedia quotes)
“A time comes when silence is betrayal…” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., opening lines of speech delivered April 4, 1967
“Poor-performing executives can survive because the president doesn’t investigate or act on employee complaints; conflict can become malignant between departments, because there is no tie breaker to force resolution; and ineffective managers are passed from one department to the next, because the senior executive would rather play ‘pass the turkey’ than cook the goose.” — “Confronting a leader’s conflict avoidance,” Joan Lloyd