We all want good relationships with our partners. We know disagreements will happen, but sometimes resolving conflict is easier said than done. Especially if we have different conflict resolution styles.
If our partner avoids a problem, we feel unheard. If we’re too accommodating, we become resentful. If we get too competitive, it can lead to a “tit for tat” relationship. So how do we navigate these relationship landmines?
The key is to understand five conflict resolution styles, which have varying levels of assertiveness and cooperativeness.
By learning about each style, you’ll better understand how you and your partner respond to conflict. By learning when to use each style, you’ll improve your conflict resolution skills. So check out the strategies below for a healthier, happier relationship!
Avoiding means you ignore the conflict or delay conflict resolution.
If your partner has ever left an argument to “blow off some steam,” or you’ve thought, “I’ll handle xyz issue later,” you’re familiar with this style.
Avoidance is often viewed negatively. If one partner avoids conflict, the other may feel undervalued. Each may assume how the other feels.
Neither will understand the true nature of their conflict. And both may even begin to resent one another.
That said, temporarily avoiding conflict may be helpful.
Use this strategy if you need time to process your emotions or thoughts. Space can also help reduce any tension. Then reconvene with your partner with a clearer head.
Accommodating means you put your partner’s wants and needs before your own. You don’t care so much about your preferences that it’s worth rocking the boat. You just want your partner happy.
While being accommodating is a nice gesture, it has limits. You don’t want to feel like you’re walking on eggshells. And you don’t want to accommodate for so long that you become resentful.
Your needs are important, too. A healthy relationship requires balance.
Provided there’s balance, this conflict resolution strategy can be beneficial. Consider accommodating when your partner has a much stronger preference than yours, so long as you understand and respect it. Use this style if you feel your partner has a better solution to the conflict than yours.
Finally, use it if you care more about the relationship than the outcome. Being accommodating shows you care for your partner’s well-being. It can build rapport. And it can encourage your partner to be accommodating in return.
Competing is a win-lose game, where one partner’s perspective trumps the other’s. In other words, it’s “my way or the highway.”
This conflict resolution style can be effective when you know you’re right, and a quick decision must be made.
This style is required when you need to stand up for yourself, your rights, and your values. A little healthy competition among willing participants can even foster mutual respect.
If you feel your partner can take the heat, compete away. But keep in mind: whoever “loses” may end up feeling hurt, belittled, or even resentful.
For the sake of a healthy, long-term relationship, use this conflict resolution style in moderation.
We’ve all heard the phrase, “relationships require compromise.”
Compromising is when each partner gives up something to reach a mutually beneficial resolution.
While the result is positive, each partner may feel only partially satisfied.
This is because neither will have explored the conflict or each other’s perspectives at the deeper level required for collaboration.
That said, compromising can be helpful when partners are at an impasse.
If you feel the act of resolving the conflict is more important than the resolution itself, feel free to use this conflict resolution style.
You can also use this style when a quick solution is required, as it’s less involved than collaborating.
Collaborating is an assertive, cooperative conflict resolution style where partners delve into each other’s needs to develop a win-win solution.
By openly communicating desires and reservations, they can even “expand the pie.”
In other words, they can discover a solution that creates additional value for both of them.
Collaborating takes time, patience, and empathy, but the results are well worth it. Use this strategy when both the resolution and the relationship are very important to you.
Collaborating will increase mutual trust, as it proves you can listen and empathize. It’ll likely help you discover a solution that was not apparent before. And it’ll bond you as a team when you both win.
Each of the Conflict Resolution Styles Has Its Place
You’ve likely used each of the above conflict resolution styles before—perhaps some more than others.
But by understanding each strategy more deeply, you can now use them to your relationship’s advantage. You can even encourage your partner to learn more about them, too!
Conflicts in relationships are inevitable, but they can help you grow. With the above tips, you’ll be well on your way.