A Typology of Conflict Avoidance

Qi Wang
Villanova University – Department of Communication

Deborah A. Cai
Temple University, School of Media and Communication

Edward L. Fink
Department of Strategic Communication, Temple University; University of Maryland


IACM 2007 Meetings Paper


When you have a fight with someone, is it better to verbalize your arguments until the other sees or submits to your point, or is it better to withdraw your arguments until both cool off? If you avoid talking to someone about an issue, is it always because you do not care about either party’s outcomes? Are all avoidance strategies undesirable? Just as «squeaky wheels get oiled,» the main stream conflictual communication research has focused on communicative strategies in dealing with conflict, and the non-communicative strategy, or avoidance, has rarely been examined. Avoidance has been largely dismissed as an inactive, passive, and ineffective conflict strategy. The main goal of the paper is to propose a typology of conflict avoidance. Specifically, the typology development uses a theoretical, deductive method. Avoidance is conceptualized along the who, the what, and the temporal dimensions, and embraces six types of variations. The different types of avoidance strategies are compared and examples of each are given. Finally, validation of the typology, future directions, and conclusion are provided.

A Typology of Conflict Avoidance

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