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Dec 15

4/15 Understanding your Fight Style for Conflict Solutions

So far we have been looking at the Communication Skills needed for good relationships.  We’ve talked about the common Roadblocks to communication and how learning to Reflective Listen to others helps get our messages across. Then we present a model for Conflict Solutions in Collaborative Problem Solving.

As we now begin to look at another very important area of Conflict Solutions – ‘Fight Styles’ and how to have better communication skills.  If we can understand where our style has come from and then, we can learn how to improve.

1.   We learn our fight styles from our family of origin

We first learn our ‘fight style’ from our parents, who will fight in one of three ways:  aggressive and ‘bloody’ out in public, quietly (or not) behind closed doors, with grace, communicating well and solving most problems.

2.  Our fight styles can reflect deeper struggles

a)  Being afraid of Emotions:

Fear and insecurity are powerful forces of control.  Perhaps we fear losing control, of lifting the lid on the volcano inside.  Emotions may have been used against you in the past when someone’s anger shut you down or caused you trauma.  Perhaps you have said “I can’t ever show my anger if that’s what happens to me”.

b)  Getting ‘sucked in’ to a Reaction Cycle:

Perhaps you have tried to resolve issues with your partner, only to find your own reactions are over-powering.  Often we use ‘emotional blackmail’ to call attention to our pain, such as sulking, withdrawal or the ‘silent treatment’, in order to shame our partner into seeing things our way.  Often it is a cry for others to recognise our hurt, but manipulation doesn’t ultimately work!

3.  Our Fight styles reflects male – female differences

a)  Men often struggle with the emotional aspect in conflict resolution.

 Often, men have trouble identifying emotions or they have learned ways of repressing what emotions are there.  Male culture doesn’t encourage the expression of emotions.  They ‘think’ rather than ‘feel’.

Their solution is to learn to identify what they are feeling.

b)  Women, on the other hand, are often overwhelmed with the amount of emotions they feel in conflict.

Their solution is to work through their emotions so as not to be ‘flooded’ with feelings when logic can be the best answer.

Like learning to ride a bike, we need to give ourselves time to learn how to resolve conflicts with those around us.  Learn to see your emotions as ‘pointers’ to unresolved issues.

4.  Our fight styles may have destructive patterns

Following are some ways we ‘sabotage’ healthy conflict resolution:

a)  Avoidance, Withdrawal or Denial

ignoring or pretending conflict didn’t/doesn’t happen.  Such repression will cause conflict to surface somewhere else at another time.  People in denial usually just give in, becoming a ‘doormat’.  They live without hope in resignation.

Some people use a ‘numbing out’ process or choose escapism to handle conflict.  However, with every ‘hidden volcano’, an explosion will happen somewhere when the pressure gets too great.

b)  Diffusion, Smothers

delaying tactics, resolving minor points without dealing with root issues.  This may produce frustration and resentment, and growth of problems.

c)  Confrontation or Domination

usually produces power struggles:  physical or physiological force, bribery, revenge, retaliation, hostility or anxiety.  When we lash out in frustration or anger, it produces a ‘winner’ and ‘loser’ mentality.

d)  Alternatively, there is the Healthy Style of Negotiation

This takes into account the needs and fears of both sides.  Strategies are developed so both sides ‘win’.

From your evaluation of your own fight style, what were the common ways that your parents handled their conflict?  How has this affected you?  Think through the information presented in this blog post.  Can you identify your Fight Style yet?

In our next post we shall continue with this important topic when we see that many of us have a ‘Dance of Death’ Fight Style.  …but the question comes  – can we change?

Susanne Fengler. Blog Author


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