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Skip the silent treatment and get to the heart of your issue, whether it’s at work or at home.

Do you avoid clashes at all costs, always changing the subject when conversation gets contentious or saving the awkward discussion for later? You may be conflict avoidant, a term for people who desperately strive to avoid fights. But putting your head in the sand and hoping the storm will pass is rarely the most effective solution, and could create more issues. Here, our best advice for attaining harmony when confrontation makes you cringe.

RESIST THE URGE TO STAY SILENT. Many of us think sidestepping conflict is taking the easy way out. In reality, you’re letting a problem build up, making things more difficult to handle as time passes. For example, if it bothers you that your partner never takes out the recycling, they’re not going to suddenly start doing it if they don’t know it’s a problem. Addressing the issue early will stop it from snowballing into a bigger issue later.

SCHEDULE A FACE-TO-FACE. If the idea of conflict makes you want to crawl into a hole, you may be tempted to resolve a disagreement via email or text. Don’t! It’s much too easy to misunderstand a person’s thoughts when you can’t see their face or hear their voice—especially when both parties are feeling defensive. If you can’t meet in person (say, if your conflict is with a coworker in a different office location), set up a phone call and talk it out.

PRACTICE ACTIVE LISTENING. Once you start discussing the issue at hand, don’t let your feelings push you into reading off a list of grievances. For example, if you didn’t get a promotion you thought you deserved, ask your boss questions and try to understand her perspective. Focus on what can be done to resolve the situation. Do you need to put in more hours? Formally apply for a position? Have an open discussion and come out with a concrete plan you both feel confident about.

EMPATHIZE WITH THE TRANSGRESSOR. In conflict, people almost always have different interpretations of what took place. Gabrielle S. Adams of the London Business School examined the role that empathy and forgiveness can play in resolving conflicts. She found that in many cases, the transgressor didn’t intend a negative effect (and in fact felt guilty and desired forgiveness), but the victim tended to think the damage was intentional. If you’re upset about something your best friend did, remind yourself that she likely wasn’t purposely trying to upset you.

FIND COMMON GROUND. Begin by identifying something you can both agree on—even if it’s as vague as saying, “We both want the house to be clean.” By clarifying your intent to achieve a mutual goal, instead of speaking with anger right off the bat, you are reminding the person that you’re not standing between them and their goal, and vice versa.

DISTANCE YOURSELF. Ever notice how you can give a friend sage advice when she calls you to complain about a slacker colleague or flaky friend, but when it comes to dealing with your own problems, you are way less rational? It may be because when you’re mentally distanced from a situation, you are better at thinking things through, according to research published in the journal Psychological Science. Try looking at the situation from an outsider’s standpoint before you react or ask yourself what advice you’d give a friend in the same situation — then take it.

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