Conflict Resolution, Part 5 How to Solve Conflict Through Collaboration

Conflict Resolution, Part 5 How to Solve Conflict Through Collaboration

Conflict Resolution, Part 5:

How to Solve Conflict Through Collaboration

Collaboration is the best way to arrive at a resolution. By collaborating on something you’re actually tuning into the other person’s side. You’re listening and lending your thoughts as well.

In this last installment of our series on conflict resolution, we’ll be diving into all the reasons why you should employ a more collaborative approach in your marriage, divorce, and other areas, too. But first, some backstory.

Breaking the Rules of Fight Club with Our Series on Conflict Resolution

Part 1 introduced the five fighting styles and how they are categorized. We learned that a fighting style is an evaluation of the ratio of someone’s concern for their own needs in proportion to their concern for the needs of others. It’s assertiveness versus cooperativeness.

Thomas and Kilmann came up with this scale in the 70’s. And it’s still the most widely used method for conflict resolution. Their scale is based on those five fighting styles.

In that same week, we discussed the characteristics of avoiders. They’re the ones who run full speed in the opposite direction of an argument. They don’t care about what’s playing out around them. Nothing is worth fighting for to them. Avoiders run low in both assertiveness and a willingness to cooperate. Dealing with their issues alone isn’t possible, and they tend to do better with counseling.

Accommodators, aptly named, by the way, give in to others in arguments. Standing their ground isn’t as big a priority to them as it is for you or me. Training in assertiveness helps them learn to do just that and avoid getting steamrolled or disrespected.

Dominant fighters are the steamrollers. They’re who accommodators give in to. They’re highly assertive and don’t care who feels the effects of their wrath. Callous in the midst of disagreements, they come off as severely competitive and need to be right every time. On the flip side, you can count on a dominant fighter in a crisis.

Last week’s installment explored common myths about compromise. As children, Sesame Street’s lovable Elmo taught us that we could only solve our issues with some give and take. Not so! In fact, it leaves us in an all around unhappy state. It’s the Hot Pocket of the fighting world, a quick fix to a recurring problem. It leads to heightened competition among couples and begrudging attitudes.

Introducing Collaboration

Where it lands on the scale:

In conflict, collaborators behave in direct opposite of avoiders. They’re highly assertive and highly cooperative. Both sides get what they want.

Characteristics of Collaborators:

Collaborative fighters want to know exactly what the other person wants. So they listen. The outcome is what matters to them most because they’re both cooperative and assertive. Relationships have value in their world. Their responses are full of intention and thought.

Conflict Resolution 5Why is it the Best Method of Conflict Resolution?

Collaboration is the most effective way to resolve conflicts at home or work. It’s the only real win/win way to end an uncomfortable situation. It requires some out-of-the-box thinking to navigate because it strives to satisfy the needs of everyone involved. In the end, no one gives up anything and receives a satisfactory outcome.

All sides are taken into consideration before collaborators make decisions. Their ultimate goal is to bring new insight to the surface in a non-threatening environment. With everything laid out on the table, it’s easy to meet the needs of all parties.

That non-threatening environment is created using an open-minded, engaged attitude. When collaboration is the goal, stepping on people’s toes, rolling over, or meeting in the middle aren’t effective tools. Don’t use them.

For it to work, both parties must agree to put their differences aside to discuss the matter. Avoiders and accommodators are leery of this because it takes some assertiveness on their part to pull off. Dominant fighters need to lean into cooperation. Perfecting an effective execution of this process takes time, so many people shy away from it in favor of arriving at a compromise instead.

How to Solve Conflict Through Collaboration

To those on the other extremes of the TKI, collaborating sounds intimidating and uncomfortable. Here’s an easy process for getting started.

  1. Set aside the appropriate amount of time. Obviously, some topics in your marriage are more serious than others. You don’t need to take two hours to decide on dinner. Likewise, you will need more than five minutes to discuss how you want to raise your children. If you don’t make the time for the conversation, it’ll never happen.
  2. Be prepared. It’s a good idea to write down your ideal outcome in detail. It will help you avoid a circular conversation or falling down the rabbit hole. Having a written idea will also help you build confidence if you’re less assertive. And it has the added benefit of helping you remember your key points, too.
  3. Hear all sides before making a decision. Doing this keeps you in check and aware of everyone’s voice while effectively creating a non-threatening environment. Jumping to a decision after hearing only one side of the argument will not facilitate a collaborative effort because you’ll end up inadvertently disregarding other perspectives.
  4. Evaluate all the options. Once everyone has aired their grievances, talk about all the possible solutions for the issue. Explain why you endorse the solution. Make sure it addresses all aspects of the problem and will leave everyone satisfied. Opt for permanent solutions over Band-Aids. If necessary, do nothing. It’s a viable option if the problem will work itself out.
  5. Make a decision. Now that you’ve weighed all the choices, it’s time to make a decision on a course of action. If you’ve arrived here after following all the steps, your decision should be clear at this point.
  6. Check back frequently. Again, use your better judgment about which topics need follow up and which don’t. Follow-ups keep everyone on the same page. After doing so, you can decide whether or not adjustments need to be made to your original plan of action. After all, nothing ever goes exactly as planned.

Conclusion

Collaboration affords everyone an opportunity to be heard and end up satisfied. Though it may be time-consuming, the outcome is well worth your effort.

If you’ve been following along, odds are you can now identify which of the five fighting styles you most relate to. While all five have a time and place in which they’re often effective, collaboration is the only one that yields satisfactory results. You’re not relegated to just one style. With a little effort, you can improve your fighting technique.

Sorry, Fight Club. We broke the rules and are better for it.

And there you have it! We’ve reached the end of our conflict resolution series. If you’ve been tuning in regularly, I’d love your feedback! What tools do you employ when resolving conflicts in your life? Let us know in our gray comments section.

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Conflict Resolution, Part 4 Learning the Art of Compromise

Conflict Resolution, Part 4 Learning the Art of Compromise

Conflict Resolution, Part 4:

Learning the Art of Compromise

We’ve covered the extremes in this series.

Avoiding conflict, accommodating the other person’s needs and dominating the conflict all have their place but aren’t usually the best route in problem-solving. They result in negative feelings and unresolved issues. Our primary focus has been on improving how you fight for your marriage.

Today we are going to bust some myths about the Compromising style of conflict resolution. But Before we jump in, let’s take a refresher in conflict styles.

What Is a Fighting style?

In brief, a fighting style is the way you choose to deal with conflicting ideas, arguments, or disagreements. Anyone at any time can use any of the styles. Since they are learned behaviors, many people only use one or two in their life.

How Are These Categorized?

We are using the TKI model I covered in detail in the first part of this series to examine each of these. This tool measures a person’s assertiveness against their cooperativeness, resulting in five unique styles. Take a look at week 1 for more details.

Compromise: The Fourth of the Five Styles

Where It Lands on the Scale:

It is the idea that no one gets everything they want, but everyone at least gets something. Compromise has long been touted as the best way to resolve conflict, so it is natural that many people are chronic compromisers. After all, it’s a learned behavior, right?

It also:

  • Lands right in the middle of the spectrum
  • Is moderately assertive
  • Moderately cooperative
  • Not entirely effective

Characteristics of Compromisers:

Effective compromisers get the most but give the least – like a good car negotiation. Compromisers mistake resolution as a bartering system. “I’ll give you some of my ice cream if I can have some of your cake.” Compromising, at least to them, is a simple give and take. It’s an easy way to “fix” a problem.

Compromisers “agree to disagree” often, since they neither work get everything they want, nor give the other person everything they want. It typically ends in a standstill.

They’re logical thinkers, unlike accommodating fighters who are more emotionally invested in an argument. This article explains that the inclination to compromise is related to personality types (remember taking all those Meyers-Briggs tests in school?) and which personality types are most likely to compromise.

A person suggests a compromise when he or she recognizes that the issue is equally important to both involved and that neither is willing to back down entirely.

Effects of Compromising:

Compromising never fully resolves an issue. It is a win-lose solution for both people. Each party has to give something up to gain something. In simple scenarios like choosing a place to eat, compromising has little effect on the overall health of a relationship. When the issue is more serious, like when making financial decisions, child rearing, etc. compromising can result in negative outcomes.

Failure to fully resolve an issue leads to the development of pent up, resentful and dissatisfied feelings. Sometimes one feels duped by the end result, having given too much for what they received.

Misconceptions of Compromising:

As children, we are taught that compromising is a socially acceptable way to solve our problems. It’s now an accepted part of acceptable societal behavior. Unfortunately, there are more than a few flaws in compromise strategies.

Conflict Resolution-Right SizeThe most obvious myth about compromising is that it makes everyone happy. This just isn’t true. Compromise very rarely makes anyone happy.

Think about buying a new car. In an ideal world, you buy a brand new car fresh off the showroom floor fully loaded with more gizmos than apps on your iPhone without selling one of your kidneys on the black market.

The dealership’s ideal situation, however, involves you paying list price for the vehicle.

After hours of massive haggling, they begrudgingly come down on the price. But they also tell you they don’t have the fully loaded model, just the basic one. Having spent an entire day getting whittled down, you reluctantly agree to drive away in less than what you wanted.

Did anyone end up truly, 100% happy? Not so much.

Also notable is the idea that everyone makes out equally. Again, this is false. Since compromise is the illicit love child of the accommodating and competing styles, there is still a level of competition. You are still trying to get the more in the argument than the other person. As a rule, the more savvy, stamina-filled, negotiator walks out with the bounty.

“Compromise serves the greater good.” This misconception has some truth behind it. Meeting in the middle does help everyone involved get a little of what they want.

Think of having a friend who lives across town. You want to get together for dinner, but you don’t want to drive all the way out to her house. Likewise, she doesn’t feel apt at killing off part of her gas tank to get to your place. The easiest thing to do is meet at a mid-point.

Compromise can undermine values as well. Perhaps you and your partner have differing views on child rearing, you are religious, they are not. To meet in the middle for the “greater good,” one of you is compromising your beliefs. Pun fully intended.

The last misconception we are addressing this week stems from our childhood: Compromising is the best way to solve problems. Well, if Elmo said it, it must be true!

Because no one ever gets what they want (see above), compromise is disqualified as the best way to resolve your conflicts. It’s true that compromising is less time-consuming and generally easier, but it’s not the best solution.

What is, you may ask? Well, you’ll have to wait for next week to find out.

When to Use the Compromising Style

Is the Compromising style ever an effective tool?

In short, yes there are plenty of times to use compromise! We’ve already mentioned that minor things like dinner plans, choosing an activity, or meeting up are up for compromise. Even car buying is a good time to negotiate.

But what about in your marriage? Here are some things to consider before you compromise what you want:

  • Are your being reasonable in your request?
  • Have all of your differences been recognized?
  • Do you have the time to fully hash out the details? (If not, then settle on a reasonable compromise)
  • Will compromising cause more issues for you later?

Conclusion

Now that everything you’ve ever been taught about compromise has been challenged let’s recap.

The give and take can lead to dissatisfied feelings or resent. Fret not! It is totally acceptable to use this style to solve minor issues without much consequence. Remember that there is a time and a place for every style, even compromise, so be wise in choosing which style you want to use.

Review the importance of the issue for you and your partner, then decide your course of action.
Compromise is not the best way to solve problems, but we’ll go over that next week.

So how did we do? Do you like to compromise? Or does it feel like one giant waste of your time? Let us know in the comments!

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Conflict Resolution, Part 3 Competing and Dominant Fighting Styles

Conflict Resolution, Part 3 Competing and Dominant Fighting Styles

Conflict Resolution, Part 3

Competing and Dominant Fighting Styles

We’ve been talking about fighting. So far we’ve covered avoiding conflict, and accommodating another person’s needs over your own. Our primary focus has been on improving how you fight for your relationship.

For those following along from week one, you know that avoiding conflict will inevitably lead to more conflict and that accommodating, or giving in, to the needs of others can be draining.

Maybe you don’t tend to use either of these. You’re in luck! Today is the day for you.

Before we jump in, let’s take a refresher in conflict styles:

What is a fighting style?

A fighting style, conflict style, whatever you prefer to call it, is the way you choose to engage in a disagreement. As we’ve said before, it’s a learned behavior determined by your experiences and your environment.

Most people tend to use one primary style, but everyone is capable of using any and all styles in their lifetime.

How are these categorized?

The TKI model (covered in depth in Part 1) is the best tool for determining your conflict style and improving it. The model measures a person’s concern for themselves (assertiveness) against their concern for other people (cooperativeness). The result identifies which of the five distinct resolution styles you are more likely to use.

Today’s style of choice? Competing or dominant conflict styles.

Competing/Dominant

Where It Lands on the Scale

Of the three we have covered thus far, the competing style is the highest in assertiveness. Imagine a rocket soaring through the ceiling of assertiveness and you will find dominant style strapped to the front of it. That rocket is also traveling straight up.

The competing style is at the very bottom of the scale in terms of cooperativeness. Dominant fighters are the exact opposite of accommodating fighters.

The terms “dominant” and “competing” are fairly interchangeable when discussing conflict resolution styles.

Characteristics of Dominant Fighters

Typically people who use this style regularly view themselves as defeating an enemy. Their goal is to win, even if they are wrong. Dominant fighters view their needs as the only ones that need to be met or that their opinion is the only one that matters.

When in a disagreement domineering fighters can use name calling and other demeaning tactics.

Because of the high value, they place on themselves, these types of fighters disregard opposing viewpoints with ease. Feelings are secondary when engaged in an argument.

Competing fighters, tend to make decisions quickly, though, which means they can act calmly in emergencies. They can also make tough decisions easily, sometimes hastily.

Effects of Competing Tendencies

Dominant fighters usually get what they want and are achievers, at all costs. Their aggressive tactics can frequently lead to burned bridges.

While the competing style leads to “wins” the tactics aren’t always received well, i.e. people don’t enjoy being steamrolled.

Additionally, people who use this style tend to ignore the needs of the family, in favor of their own. What does that mean? At some point resentment will settle in. If there are more than one competitors in the argument, one may retaliate if they don’t get their way.

In general, this is not a recommended fighting style in relationships because of the volatile emotions it can create.

Conflict ResolutionTo Use or Not to Use

Let’s take a look at when it might be appropriate to use, and when it definitely is not. We will use one of the same scenarios from our week on avoidance:

Scenario 1

Your wife has a system for loading the dishwasher, that she claims results in cleaner dishes. You don’t care how the dishes go in there, because with the push of a button they all get cleaned. You offer to do the dishes after she’s had a long day, but she isn’t thrilled with that idea since you probably won’t load the dishes her way.

After assuring her that they will all get clean, she begins to get frustrated with you. You begin to load the dishwasher anyway. Your wife begins shouting that you are doing it all wrong and that you must be stupid for not knowing how to do this right. She continues to tell you this until you step back and let her rearrange it her way. Once you do this, she is happy.

This is NOT a good way to handle this situation. As you can imagine, the wife “won” the argument, but she sacrificed a peaceful night. Instead of taking the gesture for what it was, a nice thing, she focused in on getting her way and hurting feelings along the way.

Scenario 2

You and your spouse are called by your child’s school. There has been an accident and your child needs medical attention. They tell you they can take your child to the emergency room or that you can come to the school to pick your child up. Your spouse becomes hysterical that something serious is wrong, without actually knowing, and demands to see your child immediately.

You tell the school to take your child to the nearest hospital and you will meet them there. When you arrive your spouse is inconsolable so you make all of the care decisions without conferring with them. You are certain of your decisions and everything turns out fine.

This is one of those few times that absolute assertiveness is good. Decisions needed to be made and you had a clear mind to make them. You took control of the situation.Strategies to improve your fighting technique

Strategies to Improve your Fighting Technique

Dominant fighters tend to lack compassion for other people. For that reason, it’s important to take a step back from the situation and determine if it’s worth “winning” the fight, or saving the relationship.

  1. Evaluate the issue at hand. Is it worth burning a bridge? Is it of the utmost importance to you? Is it important to the other person? Do you know you are 100% right?
  2. Monitor your tactics. It is possible to use the competing style without demeaning or belittling the opposing party. Avoid using accusatory language or flinging insults. This way you can maintain the relationship but also achieve your goal.
  3. “Losing” is not a death sentence. Just because you didn’t get your way, doesn’t mean the world is going to end. It’s okay not to get your way.Extra Resources

Extra Resources

If you are still struggling with gaining compassion for your spouse try finding a workbook on compassion. This one is only $2 at Barnes and Noble.

As always, if you are having serious issues that you feel you can’t resolve on your own, bring in a third party. Licensed therapists and counselors can be objective about matters and often open your eyes to something you may not have seen.

Conclusion

If you’re a more dominant fighter, this week was probably rough on you. Knowing how your chosen style affects your relationships can help you increase your cooperativeness. Remember, winning isn’t everything so it’s good to evaluate each issue to figure out how important the both the relationship and being right is.

We’ve covered all of the extremes of the TKI model. All of which have their place.

Coming up next week we discuss the middle ground: Compromising.

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Conflict Resolution, Part 2 The Accommodating Fighting Style

Conflict Resolution, Part 2 The Accommodating Fighting Style

Conflict Resolution, Part 2:

The Accommodating Fighting Style

Yep, we are breaking the first rule of fight club again!

We’re talking about it.

Last week we began our series on fighting by addressing the first resolution style: Avoidance.

If you’re just now joining us, you’ve probably got a few questions, so let me summarize as best I can.

What Is a Fighting Style?

Your fighting style is the way you choose to address conflicts in your life. Most often the behavior you use is a learned behavior from the biggest influencers in your life.

How are These Categorized?

Typically there are five styles that everybody recognizes thanks to the lifelong work that went into the Thomas-Kilmann model (TKI) of conflict resolution. Thier model measures your concern for yourself (assertiveness) against your concern for other people (cooperativeness).

Now, just because you tend to use one over the others, doesn’t mean you’re incapable of using any or all of them. The TKI is very adamant that these are learned behaviors and being the smart cookies that you are, you will have them all down pat by the end of this series. I’m sure of it.

Let’s dig into this week’s style: Accommodation

Accommodation

Where It Lands on the Scale

Similar to the avoidance style of last week’s article, people using the accommodating style show very little regard for their own needs. They rank at the very bottom of the scale for assertiveness.

But (and you knew there was a but coming somewhere) accommodators have extremely high concerns for the needs of other people. They accommodate them, if you will.

Characteristics of Avoiders

In most situations accommodators can feel like a doormat. That sounds harsh, but when you throw your own needs and desires out of the window time and again in favor of someone else’s, they will eventually pick up on that and use it for their advantage.

We’ll more about that style next week.

Accommodation is also viewed as the most motherly of the five styles, due to its high concern for filling other people’s needs. People who gravitate towards this style are compassionate, sympathetic, and tender. They are typically the peacekeepers of the family.

In terms of “give and take,” accommodators are constantly giving, and very rarely take. They may even have trouble accepting gifts or compliments because they are so used to dishing it out.

Effects of Avoidance tendencies

So what does it mean to be a compassionate, cuddly accommodator?

There are good effects, like building strong relationships. Typically accommodators become the person people go to for advice and to get what they need.

Because of their nurturing personalities, they are wonderful comforters and sounding boards for creativity. They are supportive of everyone in their life, except themselves obviously.

Too much accommodation has its negatives. Most notably, loss of respect. Since they rarely stand their ground, opposing parties view them as easy targets and steamroll them. As a result, the accommodator feels unheard and their self-esteem suffers.

Conflict ResolutionTo Use or Not to Use:

Just like last week, we’ll take a look at a few scenarios:

Scenario 1

You and your spouse have had a busy few weeks. You’ve decided that you want to spend the weekend with each other – do a few distractions.

Surprise! Your in-laws show up, uninvited and unannounced, to stay at your house for the weekend. You know they are important to your spouse, and that saying something oppositional will likely not end well. Despite wanting to get the heck out of dodge, honey in tow, you don’t make a fuss about it and instead suggest you move your alone time plans to the next weekend.

In this example, you’ve weighed your options and decided that peace with your spouse (and with your in-laws) is more important than getting your way.

You accommodate the needs of other people in the hopes that the issue doesn’t snowball into a large problem in the family.

Let’s keep going with this set up to see when not to accommodate, shall we?

Scenario 2

All weekend you have been run ragged entertaining your unexpected guests. It’s Sunday afternoon, and you’ve dropped a few hints about their leaving so that you and your spouse can get ready for another taxing week.

You can see that your girl is tired. And you’re exhausted as well. You have paid for every meal and catered to their needs since Friday evening.

Out of nowhere they ask to stay around through the end of the week. You want them to leave. You weren’t prepared to have them over in the first place.

Instead of putting your foot down, you bite your tongue. They stay around while you continue to care for their needs.

By letting them override you, you have given them all the power. They now know that you will never stand up for yourself and that they can always get their way. Yes, you’ve kept the peace, but at your own expense.

Strategies to Improve Your Fighting Technique

I can’t stress enough how important it is for our accommodating friends to determine their own needs. Here are a few things to consider:

  1. What are the 5 most important relationships to you? If a conflict arises with someone not on the list, remember that you don’t have to accommodate them.
  2. What needs do you need met? Even within your romantic relationships it’s important to know which needs you absolutely have to have fulfilled. Companionship? Support? Affirmation? Financial security? Figure it out! Then, feel free to say no!
  3. What issues are okay to let go?  Choose your battles. Maybe it’s choosing a movie or dinner spot, but minor things are totally fine to “keep the peace” over.

Extra Resources

I’ll admit, those steps sound easier than they are, especially if you don’t like conflict. You’ll most likely need extra help becoming more assertive.

No worries, though!

There are tons of free resource like this free course, that will walk you through the basics of assertive communication.

This website is dedicated to coaching you to be more assertive in every aspect of life!

One-on-one help is out there, too. If so, consider hiring a life coach in your area for a few weeks.

If your relationship has gone past the point of no return and you are divorcing, be sure to find an advocate that know your needs and will fight for them!

And, Finally,,,

Wrapping it all up, there is nothing wrong with being accommodating when it’s appropriate. As long as you don’t allow yourself to be a “doormat” it is a perfectly viable solution to keep the peace in your household.

If you aren’t an accommodator, consider taking a few notes from them. Remember that not everything has to be your way, especially the minor things!

You will be surprised at what giving a little will get you!

Next week we will visit the opposite side of the scale, Competing conflict styles.

Stay tuned!

 

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Conflict Resolution, Part 1 The Full Rundown on Avoidance and Fighting Like a Man

Conflict Resolution, Part 1 The Full Rundown on Avoidance and Fighting Like a Man

Conflict Resolution, Part 1:

The Full Rundown on Avoidance and Fighting Like a Man

Every relationship will experience quarrels. Each has their own way of dealing with confrontation whether or not you realize it.

Mediators and therapists have a name for it: Conflict Resolution style. In layman terms, fighting style. This series will talk about all sorts of aspects relating to how to get past conflicts.

Sorry Fight Club, we’re breaking the rules. We’re gonna talk all about it.

What Is a Fighting Style?

In this instance, your fighting style, which is subject to change, is how you react to confrontation. In terms of your marriage, it’s the way you respond to the words and actions of your spouse. There are tons of studies on personality types and conflict style, but it all boils down to your choice.

It’s the way you respond to the words and actions of your spouse. There are tons of studies on personality types and conflict style, but it all boils down to your choice.

You learn how to argue. Everyone has had one of those moments, mid-argument, where you say something and realize, “Oh, jeez, I’m turning into my parents.” That’s because on some level you developed behaviors based on what you were exposed to.

How Are These Categorized?

If you Google “conflict resolution style,” your top 10 (at least) results would be based on the research of Kenneth W. Thomas and Ralph H. Kilmann. They’ve spent 40 years honing their system and are the leading authority on the matter.

Here’s what their model looks like:

The TKI model measures one’s assertiveness against one’s cooperativeness. The result? Five categories of fighting styles. Just remember that you can use any one of those at any time, but most people develop into one main style that they use nearly all the time.

Today we are taking a deep dive into Avoidance!

Avoidance: The First of Five Styles

Where it lands on the scale:

The avoiding style is low in assertiveness and low in cooperativeness. Essentially they not only don’t care about your needs, but they also don’t care about their own. They will do anything to avoid a confrontation. Aptly named, don’t you think?

It’s widely considered a poor choice for settling a disagreement. However, there are some instances where it’s recommended.

Characteristics of Avoiders:

In general, avoiders tend to have low self-esteem. This isn’t always true, though. My husband, for instance, has very high self-esteem, but he will do anything (within reason) to keep the peace and veer away from a fight. It’s just who he is – most of the time anyway.

Most frequently they will assert that the topic is too unimportant or time-consuming to have a disagreement over. There are plenty of times that this may very well be the case.

Some other behaviors you may see in an avoider include using humor to make their partner “forget” the topic, changing the topic to something unrelated, or asking to have the discussion later. The goal of all of these is to bury it under the rug.

Effects of Avoidance tendencies:

Frequent avoidance will lead to one of you harboring resentful feelings. Either the avoider will resent their partner for “nagging” or “pushing buttons” when they try to have the same discussion again or the avoiders partner will resent them for ignoring the needs of the relationship.

Losing closeness to a partner is HUGE issue for avoiders. Ever have a friend that says “Let’s meet up soon!” but never follows through with it? Over time, you end feeling like that person doesn’t want to meet up and that they just don’t care about you. The same thing happens if you avoid a conflict for too long.

If your issues never get resolved, you can experience a build up. Herein lies the danger. The buildup of tension will lead to an explosion of hurt feelings and things you shouldn’t have said.

That said, there are some good effects of avoiding conflict. For instance, your relationship doesn’t sweat the small stuff. Remember how my husband leans towards avoiding? It’s sometimes the best thing for our relationship, because does it really matter how you put the dishes in the dishwasher? (For the record, YES, I think it does, but I’ll save you my rant)

The key is know when you should or shouldn’t avoid an issue.

To Use or Not to Use

Scenario 1

Let’s go ahead and use my dishwasher story- Your wife has a system for loading the dishwasher, that she claims results in cleaner dishes. You don’t care how the dishes go in there, because with the push of a button they all get cleaned. You offer to do the dishes after she’s had a long day, but she isn’t thrilled with that idea since you probably won’t load the dishes her way. After assuring her that they will all get clean, she begins to get frustrated with you. Your response is a classic avoider standby, “is it that big of a deal anyway?”

In an instance like this, it’s 100% okay to use avoiding tactics. Why? Because it’s not a topic that should make or break your relationship. Let’s look at when NOT to use avoiding behaviors.

Scenario 2

Once again, you come home to your wife being upset over how little time you have been setting aside for the family. You work hard during the week, so you want to play hard on the weekends. You went to happy hour on Friday afternoon and ended up making plans to go golfing on Saturday and Sunday, even though she had already asked to have a family weekend. When she hears that you’ve made plans that exclude her and your kids she is not happy. She begins to confront you, and again you respond with “what’s the big deal? Can we just talk about it later?”

What you have essentially done is communicate that her needs and emotions aren’t valid and aren’t important enough to be discussed. Remember those negative effects we talked about?

Strategies to Improve Your Fighting Technique

As I said before, the key is knowing when to avoid and when not to. When a tense subject arises it’s best to follow these step:

  1. Assess the situation- Is it important to the other person? Will avoiding it cause more issues later? If so then you need to have the fight.
  2. Plan your behavior carefully- figure out the best way to address this problem without aggravating the situation. This really does only take a few seconds to determine, so don’t think about putting off the argument.
  3. Act accordingly- follow through is the most important thing here. For example, scenario 2 could have been resolved quickly by hearing the wife’s concerns and addressing them with a thoughtful answer. Bonus points if he made a suggestion for a date night Saturday evening.

Extra Resources

If a problem has grown beyond something you feel you and your partner can sort out on your own, fear not! It may be worth it to meet with an expert. Mediators specialize in hearing both sides of an argument and suggesting action accordingly.

Therapists are a good option if you want to get down to the root cause of some of your biggest arguments. Even making the suggestion to get extra help is a step in the right direction!

Conclusion

To sum it all up, avoidance tactics have their place in a relationship but overall they tend to lead to bigger issues. A little effort will go a long way in terms of maintaining a harmonious relationship. If you or your partner is an avoider, there are several ways to improve your overall communication with displays of attentiveness and consideration.

Stay tune, Next week we’ll be looking at conflict resolution from the perspective of Accommodators!

Photo Credit: Split Second Sparring Capture via photopin (license)

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