Do you know what your conflict style is? And ... How does it impact the dynamics with those around you?
In summary the 4 main conflict styles or put another way – fear responses are the following:
Fight can show up as both overt aggression but it can also show up as passive aggression, or attacking comments or remarks. It can also show up as anger, frustration, insistent “come-backs” and general defending behaviour.
Flight can show up as a desire or inclination to want to exit, leave the room, or simply leave the conversation. Shut it down and “get out of there”. It can also show up as a desire to change the subject, “forget about it”, and/or general avoidance and escapism in order to maintain peace and composure.
Freeze can be epitomized as a “stuck” response. An inability to move forward around a topic or physically in your body. It can also show up as a numbness to either feeling or sensation. It can also show up as a form of detachment and/or disassociation. Leaving your body or the present moment and getting lost in your thoughts. It can also show up as a confusion or “getting lost” in your own or the other person’s thought process or dialogue.
Fawn aka Tend & Befriend 🙃
Fawn can show up as being “over friendly” and hiding our true feelings under a veneer of “niceties”. It’s the situation where you are at a social party and you are extra friendly, extra appeasing etc so as to get everyone to like and accept you i.e. not reject you or think horrible / judgemental things about you. In our relationships it is characterized by over-compensating, saying things are “fine” and “it’s all good” etc when actually we are having other feelings which we are hiding or possibly not even letting ourselves in on. Aka People-pleasing. It is saying yes when you mean no (or vice versa). It can also show up as “fix-it” energy where there is a desire to smooth over any misunderstandings or discomfort as quickly and as easily as possible, even if that means stepping over your own boundaries.
Although we are capable of utilizing all four of these responses at different times, I do find that we often have a “preference” for a particular style in relation to certain people or situations, or possibly a default for all situations.
For example, in my relationship I often default to flight, but with my children I quickly fall into either fight or fawn. In life and business I quickly resort to freeze.
Being able to identify our own (as well as our partner or friend’s) conflict styles can be tremendously helpful in not only being able to manage conflict more effectively, but also to support better intimacy and connection with ourselves and our special people.
When I notice that my partner (who’s primary response in relationship is fight), starts picking at a statement I have made or even resorting to passive aggressive commentary or statements I interpret as “mean” I have a choice available:
I can either fall into my own threat response (which invariably looks like saying something like “I don’t need this, I am going to sleep in the spare room” or erecting a wall of silence and connection lock-out whilst simultaneously imagining ways in which I can exit the relationship)…
Essentially escalating the conflict as my threat behaviour will trigger additional threats within my partner (which would either escalate an existing response or flip it into another one, depending on the person’s style)…
I can see it for what it is, which is a symptom that my partner has been triggered into either an insecurity, fear or some other unmet emotional need, giving us an opportunity to check in and communicate and possibly resolve a breakdown of understanding in our relationship.
Equally, if I find that I am quickly wanting to pick up my response system in relation to perhaps something “seemingly innocent” that my partner has said or done, I can also have the opportunity to unpack within myself, what am I feeling threatened by? What fear, insecurity or emotional need is raw and feeling triggered? Thereby, not only improving my intimacy with myself but again giving me an opportunity to work through either an existing or future entanglement within my relationship.
So until we connect again, spend some time feeling into what is your conflict style, what are the styles of your friends, family and/or loved ones and how can your knowledge of these further improve your intimacy and connections.