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Jan 14

4/16 Learning more about Fighting Fair for Conflict Solutions

Most people have a certain ‘fight style’ they have learned from watching others resolve conflicts.  Often this happens in our childhood or in our teen years with our siblings and peers.  Learning to see our fight style and then changing the way we ‘fight’ with other is of great benefit when trying to learn better communication skills.

A.  Do you have a ‘Dance of Death’ fight style?

When we get locked into the same unhealthy methods of resolving conflicts, a ‘tit for tat’ response gets set in motion.  It becomes a “ …you do this step, I do this ….”, like some surreal self-destructive dance.

When we face conflict in relationships, it is easy to slip into old childhood ways of handling unpleasant events.  We adjust our own fight style to moves and counter-moves with our partner (like a chess game).   In these destructive cycles, co-dependent ways of handling conflict emerge.

Harriet Lerner, in her book The Dance of Anger, describes the  predictableness of such fighting as a dance.  Each partner has their own pattern of reactions that fits into the other’s pattern of reactions.  The downward spiral of these reaction patterns brings death to the relationship.

1.  Personal Fight styles:  dirty or fair?

a)  The Retreat and Chase Style“I’ll do anything you want to bring peace.”

b)  The Shadow Boxing Dance“I’m fighting something from my past through this conflict with you.”

c)  The Dance of Emotional Blackmail“You have to change!  My way is the best and only way for us!  Do it my way or else”

d)  The Dance of the Passive Avoider “I’ll just swallow this hurt and pretend like I’m OK.”

e)  The Gunny Sacker/Scorekeeper Dance“I remember you did this before and you’re not different now.”  This is also the Faultfinder, The Classic Scorekeeper.

f)  The “I can’t take the guilt so I’ll bury it some more.” Dance of Shame and Guilt – or “Yes, I’m guilty so heap some more guilt on me.”

f)  The Dance of the Side tracker“But I remember this other time, when you….”.  Using ‘ Smoke and Mirrors’ to avoid taking responsibility for their part in the issue.

g)  The “I can’t be Bothered” or “I’m Too Comfortable” Dance“I’ve reached nirvana and it takes too much effort to face you.”

h)  The “I’ve Given Up!” Dance“I’ve tried and failed too many times, so why try again?”

i)  The “Marriage as a  Quick Fix” (Co-Dependent) Dance – “I need you to survive and you need me to survive too.”

k)  The Addicted to Drama Dance “I can’t stand peace and quiet because I’ve seldom known it.”

l)  The Attack Mode Dance“Do to others before they do it to you.”

m) The Thin Skinned Dance“Please, please don’t say anything bad to me.  I can’t stand it!”

All unhealthy fight styles will wreck havoc on the physical, emotional and relationship structure, whether “acting it out” or “acting it in”.

2.  Think about what you already know about your fight style.  Where have your present conflict resolutions methods come from?   Examples of this might be …..?

3.   What disturbed you most about the conflict styles you learned as a child from parents, family or peers?

4.  How has this influenced your conflict with others? 

B.  Your own “Dance of Death”

There are four main unhealthy ways to deal with conflicts.  Do you identify with any of these examples?  What is your usual way of handling conflict?

a) Withdrawal:

“I usually tend to become less assertive, more self-controlled, hold in my feelings, keep quiet and nor share my ideas.  I basically avoid, dodge, escape and retreat from other people and/or undesirable situations.”

10 < ——————————   > 1

b) Dominate:

“I usually tend to become over-assertive,   autocratic, unbending and over-controlling, demanding that things be done my way.  I have a very strong will and I attempt to impose my thoughts and feelings on others.”

1 <   ———————————— > 10

10 < ———————————   > 1

c) Give in:

“I usually tend to give into others to keep the peace and reduce conflict. I appear to agree with others even though inside I disagree. I strongly desire to save the relationship, even if it hurts me the most.”

1 < ————————————   > 10

d) Attack:

“I usually tend to emotionally attack others and their ideas, using condemnation and put-downs to discredit them.  I have strong emotions and will tell people how I feel about things.”


Adapted from Dancing with Porcupines, pg. 85.

C.  On this scale of 1 to 10, where would you put your own fight style?

Mark on this paper where you would rate in the ‘1 to 10’ graph with the extremes of each fight style on the ends of each line.

Suggestions on how to undo this ‘Dance of Death’ fight style methods you identify in yourself?  We have included more evaluation Personal Worksheets for you to see your thinking behind the emotions and the behaviours.  It will help if your print off the worksheets so you can think about the statements in your own time.

We have presented this with the aim of helping you identify your own personal ‘Fight Style’.  In our next post, we continue with identifying and then being able to change your fight style into a more healthy way of facing Conflict Solutions.  Join us then,

Susanne Fengler. Blog Author


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