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What is Your Conflict Resolution Style

Updated on February 10, 2019
Filip Stojkovski profile image

Passionately interested about the arts, especially drawing and painting. Professionally works as a web developer.

There is no real way to completely avoid conflict. It will happen in relationships, at work, it will stand in the way of having fun with friends or spending quality time with loved ones. Did you know that the Chinese symbol used to write down the word “conflict” is actually a composite of two words - danger and opportunity. This is an important insight because conflict is not completely bad, it hides an opportunity for positive change.

Conflict Has a Bad Name

Most people are frequently missing out on opportunities that are hiding inside a conflicting situation. Such situations are usually putting us under too much stress to look at the situation clearly. In this article I will explore some common ways that people deal with conflict, and share some knowledge and techniques that can transform the way you react and deal with those kinds of situations. We’ll take a look at how people make some unconscious decisions and make habits that are automatically activated when triggers for conflict are recognized. Also, how to deconstruct conflict to its more fundamental parts, so that you can mediate conflicting sides, or be in a better position when negotiating your own interests in the future. I think the information that I’m sharing in this article can have a significant impact if these ideas are well understood, so let's get started.

Some Most Common Reactions to Conflict

The base for any conflict is Ego. There must be two opposing sides for a conflict to take place. But that is only the beginning. In more serious conflicts, at least from the point of view of the victim or the aggressor, the body tends to get really stressed and activates a fight or flight mechanism. This is a very deep reaction, deep down to biological and neurological level and that is the reason why it’s even more difficult to react in a reasonable way is such cases. Rather, people are engaged in an automatic response that is strongly driven from the subconscious mind. Generally we can broadly define reactions to conflict, or conflict resolution styles to three groups: Passive, Aggressive and Passive-Aggressive.

Aggressive Style

An aggressive conflict resolution style is usually when the person finding themselves in dangers, turns back to fight the opposing side. This is not dependent of how the conflict started, rather once the trigger of danger is recognized, the person automatically enters a “Fight” mode. In some cases this approach is good, but the problem is that we are usually stuck with a default mode of reacting and we do it even when that is not the best strategy given the circumstances. Downside of this approach is that it’s quite destructive, and although it has a potential of quickly resolving a conflict, there is high danger of consequences. The positive side is the willingness to face the problem, determination and courage that is recognized by the opposing side.

Passive Style

The passive style is somewhat opposite than the Aggressive that we discussed previously. Instead aiming to attack the opposition, this strategy is more towards avoidance of the incoming danger or attack. This can be clearly seen in animals that are in the role of pray. They are aware of the inferiority and in order to increase their chances for survival, they try to escape or “Freeze” and play dead. Some similar reactions in a more sophisticated form can be seen in people. The negative side of this approach is that you may be missing on some opportunities or may be putting yourself in an even worst situation by confirming your role as a victim.

Passive-Aggressive Style

This is the most subtle of the three styles. The one in conflict is appearing as though is not taking any active initiative, but in fact is trying to indirectly control the situation. This is not easy to describe, but you must have came across manipulative people that appear to one person while behind your back they are a completely different person.

Is There a Better Way?

All of the styles are good in some way and bad in other ways. You shouldn’t prefer just one style of dealing with conflict, but rather explore more deeply which strategy works best under which conditions. It’s best to analyze your own situations and conflicts in the past, and conclude where maybe a different approach would give better results.

Use the Power of "Why" to Negotiate More Effectively

Usually people are stuck with opposing positions, but if you can ask “why” and come to the deeper need of each person involved in the conflict, some room for negotiation starts to open. It is important to create as safe environment as possible, and to shift the focus away defeating any conflicting side, rather aim for a win-win situation. If your opposition feels less personally threatened by the conflict, they will be more open to negotiations.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Filip Stojkovski

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