Denial of Conflict

One of the chief stumbling blocks to resolving conflict is denial - when people deny that the conflict even exists, either to themselves or to the other person.

For example:
HIM: (noticing the expression on her face) What's wrong?
HER: Nothing, forget it, it doesn't matter.

Sometimes the situation may be resolved if the first person pursues it, but frequently it will be left to lie in the hope that it will go away. It won't. Even if this conflict doesn't re-occur, it will probably used as ammunition in a later conflict.

Denial may result from many reasons, such as:

  • a fear of what acknowledging the conflict will reveal about the relationship.
  • seeing an admission of conflict as an admission of failure on your part.
  • fearing conflict in and of itself (this is particularly true if you have grown up in an atmosphere of conflict).
  • a fear of where an admission of conflict may lead - violence for example.

Denial may be seen either through suppression, where one person simply refuses to accept that it exists, or through withdrawal where somebody leaves (permanently or temporarily). In both cases the 'deny-er' will have no input into any solution and it is unlikely that a complete solution can be achieved, simply because nobody knows what the 'deny-er's needs are. It is therefore virtually impossible to resolve an unacknowledged conflict, and the person denying the conflict will need to be brought to acknowledge it. .

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