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Way before we engage in an act of dispute, no matter the scenario, we have some fairly ingrained ways of responding to conflict. These conflict response styles are deeply sourced from our culture. It's important to understand our responses to conflict, to build awareness, and to grow our capacity to make better choices in the moment. As we go through each style, be on the lookout for your default responses. We will focus here on the five most typical styles we use in an effort to deal with our discomfort.
I also cover this topic in the Negotiation Fundamentals course. Here in the context of conflict, it takes on a slightly different shape. These styles are Suppression, Avoidance, Resolution, Transformation, and Transcendence. We suppress, we refuse to talk about certain things, and we tell others that they shouldn't talk about them either. We shut down any possible resolution because the whole process makes us uncomfortable.
We avoid, we don't even give voice to our true thoughts or feelings. Instead, we stew, we harbor bad thoughts, we have imaginary conversations in our heads, or we talk to someone else, trying to gain alliances and prove we are right and the other person is wrong. Moving up the scale of our problem- solving capacity is resolution. With this style we are engaged, we are making an effort to understand why the conflict occurred, and we're brainstorming ways to solve the problem cooperatively.
We also transform, that means we use the conflict to transform our relationships. We work to understand our conflict partner while also owning our part with the intention of shifting our behavior in a lasting way. You'll notice that I use the term Conflict Partner. This is because not only does it take two to tango, it takes immense courage to take your part in the conflict. We are also capable of transcending conflict, moving past it free of bitterness and resentment, because we move past the need to engage. We've given up the hold our triggers have on us.
By now you've probably identified your default responses to conflict. If you operate somewhere between resolution, transformation, and transcendence, congratulations! You are way ahead of the game. On the other hand, if you notice that you travel between suppression and avoidance, start paying attention to your triggers, the things that typically upset you. And notice how your default response alters the quality of your relationships. Here's why: You can't resolve a conflict unless you're willing to take your part in it.
So, be honest with yourself, where do you land? All this awareness building is an essential ingredient to resolving any conflict.
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