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Conflict Denial

Part I:  Description

Conflict Denial: Ignoring the Elephant in the Room

Conflict denial is a defense mechanism where we refuse to acknowledge or address a disagreement or clash. It's a way to avoid the discomfort or potential consequences of dealing with the conflict. Here are the key aspects:

  • Defense Mechanism: A strategy used to manage difficult emotions or situations.

  • Ignoring Reality: Conflict denial involves downplaying, minimizing, or outright refusing to accept that a conflict exists.

  • Short-Term Relief: Denial might offer temporary comfort, but it doesn't resolve the underlying issue.

Why Do We Deny Conflict?

There can be several reasons for conflict denial:

  • Fear of Upset: We might be afraid of arguments, hurt feelings, or damaged relationships.

  • Feeling Overwhelmed: Complex conflicts can feel paralyzing, leading to avoidance.

  • Hope It Will Go Away: We might hope the problem will disappear on its own (it usually doesn't).

The Dangers of Conflict Denial

Unresolved conflict can fester and lead to:

  • Increased Tension: Ignoring tension only allows it to build, potentially leading to outbursts.

  • Misunderstandings: Without open communication, misunderstandings can grow.

  • Damaged Relationships: Unaddressed conflict can strain relationships in personal and professional life.

Part II:  Common Questions

1. How can I tell if I'm in denial about a conflict?

  • Answer: Look for these signs:

    • Downplaying Issues: Brushing off concerns or pretending problems don't exist.

    • Blaming Others: Shifting responsibility instead of acknowledging any role in the conflict.

    • Avoiding the Topic: Changing the subject or shutting down conversations about the issue.

    • Feeling Anxious: General unease or tension when the potential conflict is mentioned.

2. Why is it bad to deny conflict?

  • Answer: Denial prevents a resolution, leading to:

    • Increased Tension: Unresolved issues can create a more hostile environment.

    • Misunderstandings: Lack of communication leads to confusion and hurt feelings.

    • Damaged Relationships: Unaddressed conflicts can strain bonds in personal and professional settings.

3. How can I overcome conflict denial?

  • Answer: Here are some steps:

    • Acknowledge: Accept that there's a problem.

    • Identify Emotions: Understand why you might be avoiding the conflict.

    • Seek Support: Talk to a trusted friend, therapist, or mediator to gain perspective.

4. What if the other person is in denial about the conflict?

  • Answer: You can't control someone else's actions, but you can:

    • Communicate Clearly: Express your concerns calmly and directly.

    • Set Boundaries: Limit unhealthy interactions if they refuse to address the conflict.

    • Focus on Yourself: Work on managing your own anxieties around the situation.

5. Is there ever a time when conflict denial is okay?

  • Answer: In very rare situations, a temporary "cooling-off" period might be helpful:

    • When Emotions Run High: Taking a break before a conversation allows for calmer heads to prevail.

    • Needing Time to Process: Complex issues might require some time for individual reflection before addressing them constructively.

Part III:  Additional Resources

Books about Conflict Denial

Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It by Chris Voss: 

  • While focused on negotiation, this book offers valuable insights on recognizing emotional responses and navigating difficult conversations, which can be helpful when dealing with conflict denial.

Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by Sue Johnson:

  • Explores attachment styles and communication patterns in relationships. Understanding these dynamics can be helpful in identifying conflict denial and promoting healthier communication.

Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Heen & Neil Bryant: 

  • A practical guide to navigating challenging conversations, offering tools to overcome avoidance and address conflict constructively.

Websites and Online Resources about Conflict Denial

  • The Gottman Institute: Established by renowned relationship researchers, this website provides research-based information and resources on conflict denial in intimate relationships. They explore how denial can impact communication and offer strategies for addressing it. (

  • Psychology Today: Search for articles on conflict denial, communication apprehension, and defense mechanisms. These can provide a deeper understanding of the psychological aspects of conflict denial. (

  • Greater Good Science Center (Berkeley): Search for articles on emotional intelligence, self-awareness, and managing difficult emotions. These can be helpful in recognizing conflict denial within yourself and developing healthier coping mechanisms. (

Additional Options about Conflict Denial

  • This U.S. government website offers a resource on recognizing and dealing with conflict, including tips for overcoming denial and choosing healthy communication approaches.

  • Talkspace Therapy: While a therapy service, Talkspace offers informative blog posts on various mental health topics. Search for articles on conflict denial for insights from licensed therapists. (

  • The Gottman Institute Blog: The Gottman Institute offers a wealth of blog posts on conflict management, communication, and relationships. Look for posts specifically addressing conflict denial and its impact on relationships. (

  • Workshops and Trainings: Organizations specializing in conflict resolution or communication may offer workshops on overcoming conflict denial and developing assertive communication skills.

Part IV:  Disclaimer

These results were highly selected, curated, and edited by The Nexus Inititiative. To make this amount of complimentary content available at a cost-effective level for our site visitors and clients, we have to rely on, and use, resources like Google Gemini and other similar services.

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