When you know there is a problem and you need to talk to someone, what is your style of conflict? Your style is usually learned from your original family.
So let’s talk more about those different styles. On my website I have a free conflict assessment. It’s takes only a few minutes and it will tell you your primary conflict style. Then you can have another person take it and compare styles.
Marital researcher John Gottman identifies basic conflict styles and other researchers have added to the list. Here are three common styles.
1. Avoiders don’t talk about their differences much. They prefer to minimize and smooth over issues. If they do bring up an issue, they present their sides, but then not much else happens. There is no attempt to persuade or convince the other. They feel it is better to focus on the positives and prefer to avoid conflict as much as possible.
2. Reactors or Volatile types are passionate, competitive, and intense. They love to argue. They are clear about their opinions and have no problem arguing and trying to persuade the other. They deal with differences head on and see themselves as equals. At times they can be aggressive and need to monitor their intensity.
3. Negotiator or validator types are calm and rational. They have conflict, bring it up, and work through it to a solution. They listen and show support and concern for each other. In the end, they compromise and try hard to negotiate solutions.
So can you guess your primary conflict style? Do you avoid, validate, or become volatile? Take the quiz.
Now think about the conflict styles of other people in your life. Do the styles match? What happens when there is a mismatch (a mixing of the different styles) of conflict style? For example, what if the avoider is married to a volatile person? Or what if a validator is in relationship with an avoider?
When a mismatch occurs, conflict can lead to a stalemate and ongoing problems. In order to work with different conflict styles, we all need to make accommodations. Talk about the differences and decide what the two of you can do to accommodate each other if there are clashes. Keep in mind that both people must be willing to do a little give-and-take in order to work with each other’s style.
And of course a biblical style is not to avoid, but to go to the person and try to resolve the issue (Matthew 18). In that process, we speak the truth in love, being careful to preserve the relationship, making every effort to reconcile.
For more on conflict styles, check out Dr. Linda Mintle’s book We Need To Talk .
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