Ten steps to overcome your fear of confrontation

young couple fighting with each other

Confrontation is a big part of our lives. We encounter it at work and in personal relationships with family, partners, and even friends. 

Yet, some people choose to back away when faced with a disagreement and avoid confrontation in the hopes that it will go away on its own.

A fear of confrontation can be rooted in your upbringing or past trauma that caused you to develop unhealthy reactions to perceived threats such as; fight, flight, freeze, or fawn.

Here are the explanations of these stress responses:

Fight: A person chooses to fight by becoming defensive and aggressive when faced with a threat, ultimately to protect themself.

Flight: A person avoids confrontation by running away or shutting off.

Freeze: A person doesn’t react and may disassociate entirely from the situation. 

Fawn: A person tries to diffuse the conflict by immediately trying to please the other person.

Conflict and confrontation cause stress in most people, and you are not alone if you generally want to avoid it. However, a fear of confrontation may damage your relationships and mental health if you don’t address it healthily.

Most people choose not to acknowledge their fear of confrontation, acting as if it doesn’t affect them or submitting to the other person. However, avoiding confrontation for many years leads to resentment and perpetuating victimhood.

If you’re afraid of confrontation, we compiled the ten steps below to help you overcome this fear, live a healthier life, become more resilient, and have deeper relationships.

1. Take your time

You don’t have to respond immediately to someone or a situation when you face conflict. 

Instead of reacting with a stress response, consider telling the other person you need time to think and want to resolve the situation later. 

During this time, you can gather your thoughts and assess how you feel before expressing them to the other person.

2. Write down how you feel and what you can gain from the confrontation

Benefits of Journaling for Stress Management

People afraid of confrontation often justify to themselves why it is wrong or unhelpful. 

Writing down what you’re feeling about the situation or person without judging your thoughts or feelings helps you distinguish emotion from reality.

Whether you feel hurt, ashamed, disappointed, or else, you can find a way to explain those feelings. 

Confronting someone or a situation often builds resilience and confidence, so focus on the benefits the confrontation can bring rather than your fears around it.

3. Scan your memory to understand why you may be afraid of conflict

Ask yourself what kind of thoughts you associate with conflict and how you have dealt with it throughout your life. 

You can dig deep into your memories to remember who you had conflicts with the most or what happened when you confronted them. For example, maybe you were always grounded as a kid for standing up for yourself, so you adopted the “fawn” response.

Learning about yourself is the foundation of cognitive behavioral therapy, which can help you overcome your fear of confrontation and teach you healthy coping mechanisms.

4. Reassess your perspective about the person or situation

Your limiting beliefs about the person or situation you avoid confronting may blur your judgment.

If you want to overcome your fear of confrontation, you need to understand what is stopping you first. People often hold themselves back not because of the person or situation at hand but because of their insecurities. 

For example, someone who is fragile yet dislikes showing weakness may avoid confrontation to avoid crying in front of others.

5. Take it one step at a time

You can’t expect to become assertive overnight. However, if you feel pressured to overcome your fear of confrontation, you can practice standing up for yourself in smaller ways before you deal with bigger conflicts in your life. Improving your confidence in dealing with confrontation goes a long way in overcoming your fear.

Most people who avoid confrontation bottle up their emotions. If you need to confront somebody about something in the past, you can do it gradually by dissecting the confrontation. 

6. Don’t blame the other party, but get across how you feel


When you decide that you are ready to face your fear of confrontation and take action, don’t just lash out. Avoid blaming the other person, and ask them to listen to your feelings.

Actively listening is the key to resolving conflict and removing any tensions. If both parties want to move on, they can do so even though mistakes have been made.

In some cases, asking for help from a mediator or therapist may be necessary.   

7. Express yourself in a medium or an environment you’re comfortable

As humans, we are all afraid to be misunderstood, which can often create additional stress on someone who fears confrontation.

That’s why feeling comfortable about how and where you express yourself is crucial to get better at confrontation. For example, if you need space from someone, it might be better to text or call rather than meet face-to-face.

8. Listen to the person or people you are in conflict with

Sometimes, we may make assumptions about someone’s feelings or intentions instead of confronting them because it’s easier. Unfortunately, people don’t have mind-reading abilities, and unless we have open communication with people, it’s impossible to know their points of view.

Instead of becoming passive-aggressive, asking someone why they behaved a certain way towards you may reveal their actions weren’t intentional.

9. Be ready to compromise and ask others to compromise for you

woman in yellow jacket smiling

If the slightest disagreement or conflict with someone sends you haywire and makes you think it’s the end of everything, you are most likely wrong.

Whether discussing a higher salary with your boss, moving in with a partner, or living style with a housemate, conflicts can dissolve quickly when both parties make an effort and compromise. 

If confrontation seems daunting because you are convinced you won’t get what you need from the other person or situation, it is best to walk away.

10. Understand not everything can be resolved

Occasionally, people avoid confrontation because they have tried it in the past, and it hasn’t changed their situation. If you believe an ongoing conflict is hurting your mental health and the other party isn’t trying to resolve the problem, you must let go.

If someone constantly puts you in conflict, you should set healthy boundaries instead of confronting them each time. Sometimes learning to say “no” to someone is the greatest act of confrontation.  

Get in touch with us to learn how we can help you or someone you love to overcome their fear of confrontation.

About Adam Nesenoff

Adam Nesenoff has been working in recovery for over ten years.

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