How understanding your conflict resolution style can help you overcome fights with friends and family

In addition to all the joys they bring us, families and closest friends are also often a source of conflict, betrayal, regret, and resentment.

We could see an example with Prince Harry’s memoir book, Spare (“In the shadow”, in Spanish), which shows us that the people closest to us are also the ones who usually have the greatest power to harm us.

In the book he describes power struggles, conflicts, difficult family dynamics, and decades of guilt, jealousy, and resentment.

These types of conflicts can seem impossible to resolve. It’s not easy to leave them behind and sometimes you just can’t, at least in the short term.

But psychology has helped us better understand why the relationships closest to us break up and what factors make it more likely to find a solution.

And it is that throughout life it is very difficult to avoid hurting, annoying or coming into conflict with the people we love, something that most people go through. Hence, learning to deal with such situations is a more useful and realistic goal than avoiding it.

attachment wounds

The first step is to understand what makes conflict in relationships so difficult and what are the different ways to deal with it.

Sometimes it is very difficult to avoid hurting someone we love very much. (Photo: GETTY IMAGES)

Canadian psychologists Judy Makinen and Susan Johnson have used the term “attachment wounds” to describe the type of pain that occurs when we perceive that we have been abandoned, betrayed or mistreated by the people closest to us.

These wounds sting so much because they lead us to question the trust, reliability or loyalty of these people and trigger a host of emotional and behavioral responses, such as aggressiveness, resentment, fear, avoidance, and reluctance to forgive.

These responses have evolved as a form of self-protection and are rooted in our personal histories and personality.

Pain can last indefinitely and continue to influence us from the dark.

In this sense, what have psychologists learned about the way people heal, overcome pain and even learn and grow from it?

Turtles, sharks, teddy bears, foxes and owls

There are many investigations that have been carried out on conflict resolution.

One of them, by social psychologist David W. Johnson, studied conflict management “styles” in humans and modeled the typical ways we respond to them.

Teddy bears
Teddy bear types are the ones who sacrifice their own concerns in favor of someone else’s. (Photo: GETTY IMAGES)

He argued that our responses and strategies in conflict resolution tend to involve an attempt to balance our own concerns (our goals) with the concerns of the other people involved (their goals) and the preservation of the relationship.

Johnson established five main styles or approaches around this balance:

  • Las “turtlesThey withdraw, abandoning both their own goals and the relationship. The result is often a frozen and unresolved conflict.
  • Los “sharks” have an aggressive and energetic attitude and protect their own goals at all costs. They tend to attack, intimidate, and overwhelm during conflict.
  • Los “Teddy bearsThey seek to keep the peace and smooth things over. They completely abandon their own goals. They sacrifice themselves for the good of the relationship.
  • Los “foxesThey adopt a compromise style. They worry that both parties will make sacrifices and see compromise as the solution, even when it results in less than ideal results for both parties.
  • Los “owls” adopt a style that sees conflict as a problem to be solved. They are open to solving it through any solution that offers both parties a way to achieve their goals and maintain the relationship. This can take considerable time and effort. But the owls are willing to resist whatever the cost.

Research suggests that our conflict resolution styles are related to our personalities and histories that are part of us.

For example, people whose early experiences taught them that their feelings are unimportant or invisible may be more likely to develop conflict management styles that instinctively minimize their needs (for example, the teddy bear).

two owls
Although a person may reflect characteristics of other styles, those who are owls are unlikely to become sharks. (Photo: GETTY IMAGES)

Some psychologists have also suggested that our conflict management styles can change in longer-term relationships, but they don’t tend to change dramatically.

In other words, although a teddy bear may develop features that reflect other styles, it is highly unlikely that it will become a shark.

Psychologists Richard Mackey, Matthew Diemer, and Bernard O’Brien argue that conflict is inevitable in all relationships.

According to his investigations, the duration of a relationship depends to a large extent on how the conflict is dealt with, and the most lasting and satisfying relationships are those in which both parties accept the conflict and deal with it constructively.

Therefore, even if a relationship between two sharks is long-lasting, it is much less likely to be harmonious than a relationship between two owls.

The forgiveness

Forgiveness is usually considered the ultimate goal in couple conflicts.

Analysts Lisa Marchiano, Joseph Lee, and Deborah Stewart of Carl Gustav Jung’s school of analytical psychology, based on restoring emotional balance, describe forgiveness as a point at which we are able to “hold in our hearts, at the same time , the magnitude of the damage they have done to us and the human aspect of the one who did us harm”.

Carl Gustav Jung
Carl Gustav Jung was the creator of analytical psychology and gave rise to the Jungian school of therapy. (Photo: GETTY IMAGES)

It’s not easy to get to that point because it can seem like we’re minimizing our suffering by forgiving someone.

But psychologists Masi Noor and Marina Catacuzino, founders of The Forgiveness Project, which offers resources to help people overcome unresolved grievances, include a series of essential skills or tools that they say can help us achieve forgiveness.

Among them, understanding that all human beings are fallible (including ourselves); give up to compete to determine who has suffered the most; feel empathy by the way others see the world and recognize that there are other prospects; and accept the responsibility of how we have been able to contribute to our own suffering, although this is something difficult to digest.

As the American writer Mark Twain said: “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”

*Sam Carr is Professor in Education with Psychology and at the Center for Death and Society at the University of Bath, UK.. This note originally appeared on The Conversation and is published here under a Creative Commons license.

Read the original article here.

It may interest you:

* How your personality changes as you get older
* The luminous triad, the 3 personality traits that can make you a “good person”
* What is the D factor that defines the “dark traits” of the personality

Remember that you can receive notifications from BBC Mundo. Download the new version of our app and activate them so you don’t miss out on our best content.

Do you already know our YouTube channel? Subscribe!