Conflict is a natural part of everyday life. If you’re a parent, a child, a carer, an employee, an employee you’ll probably face conflict in some form or another every single day.
Everyone has their own natural conflict style, so being aware of yours and working to make your conflict style more collaborative than combative can often lead to a more positive outcome for everyone.
This article was written from a talk with a group of parents in Hertfordshire as part of Just Talk Week 2020, with the aim of giving people background to conflict styles, and some practical tools to resolve conflict within the home.
There are 5 main identified conflict styles: Avoiding, Accommodating, Compromising, Authoritarian, and Joint-problem solving. I’ve worked with upwards of 7000 families over the past 15 years, so I’ve seen all of the styles in action. This first section talks through each of the styles and offers pros and cons for using this style – see if you can see your own natural conflict style here…
(The pros and cons were suggestions from the group and are by no means exhaustive – see if you can think of any others as you go through this process.)
This person avoids conflict at all costs (e.g. computer games)
This person will start to have the conversation but then bail out and do it themselves (e.g. laying the table)
This person will offer something in return for something else e.g. chores in return for treats / time on computer
this person will take charge and set the rules (e.g. taking phone away for bad behavior)
this person will engage the other person in a process to create a jointly agreed solution
This is the approach that we advocate at BeeZee Bodies. The process goes something like this:
Note: This approach needs to be attempted when you are removed from a situation where the conflict occurred, or else people could become defensive.
Now you know about the conflict styles, here’s a short exercise to get you thinking about which your natural style is. Read the following few scenarios – how would you naturally respond, and which style do you think is?…
Another key element to consider is that we don’t always react the same. Our reaction could be affected by what state are we in – are we tired? Stressed? How much time do we have? Where are we? What time of day it is?
Ultimately it helps to get to a stage where we are able to choose our conflict style. We promote the joint problem-solving style, although it’s not always easy.
Here’s an example of using the joint problem-solving approach and the steps you’d take together.
When it doesn’t work…
I hate to sound like a pessimist (I prefer realist), but I’ve worked with enough families to know that it doesn’t always go plain sailing.
Here’s what happens when they don’t stick to the rules….
Resolving conflict is not always straight forward, but the more often you adopt this approach, the more natural it will become for you both…. And if you fly off the handle and completely forget, then don’t beat yourself up. Life happens. You can always try again next time!