How You Manage Conflict Says a Lot About You

What do the strategies you usually use to resolve conflicts say about you? What methods do you usually follow? Do any of them aggravate the problem? Find out more in this article.
How You Manage Conflict Says a Lot About You

Written by Edith Sánchez

Last update: 18 November, 2022

How you manage conflict says a lot about you. In fact, it’s said that our position in the face of conflict gives us away and shows who we really are. It seems plausible enough. After all, the way we manage our differences and tensions is connected to how we relate to ourselves and how we observe what’s happening around us.

Poor management of conflict intensifies its discomfort, even though this way of acting may give temporary relief. Eventually, you either experience a noticeable discomfort in yourself, or you increase the tensions in your interpersonal relationships. In other words, handling these situations poorly makes it difficult to find common ground.

Your well-being largely depends on the way you manage conflict. However, for you to do it correctly you need to be mature. Indeed, these situations require great empathy, as well as serenity and a constructive attitude. They’re not that easy to deal with.

Whenever you’re in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship or deepening it. That factor is attitude.”

-William James-

friends arguing

Daily conflict

There’s no one way to avoid disagreements in love, family, or work relationships. Moreover, you have to continuously face the limits that life in society imposes on you. This can generate tension. In addition, abiding by the rules isn’t always easy. Therefore, conflict is part of everyday life, to a greater or lesser extent.

Conflict creates conflict. If you’re faced with a situation that causes you stress, you might choose to implement a series of measures that often aren’t too adaptive. The most basic is fight or flight. If you can’t manage the conflict, you may choose to give in and go against what you really want and think you should do.

Your personality influences the way you manage conflict

Personality influences conflict management, but conflict management also influences personality. In effect, the influence is bi-directional. A study conducted in 2011 established a relationship between five personality traits and the handling of conflictive situations. These traits coincided with those proposed by the Big 5 Model: agreeableness, openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, and neuroticism.

The conclusions of the study were as follows:

  • People in whom all these factors predominate, with the exception of neuroticism, usually resolve conflicts by looking for ways to reconcile the two opposing positions.
  • In those profiles in which kindness predominates, avoidance strategies also tend to predominate. With these personality types, conflictive situations rarely reach the enforcement stage.
  • The best conflict negotiators are people in whom the traits of agreeableness, openness to experience, conscientiousness, and extraversion predominate.

The way you manage conflict and fear

One of the factors that most conditions the way you manage conflict is fear. In particular, the fear of losing. For example, perhaps you don’t tell your partner what you don’t like about your relationship because you fear falling out or having an argument. Maybe you don’t point out what you think is unfair to your boss because you’re afraid of losing your job or being subject to retaliation. Likewise, you may not share your opinions with your family because you know that they think just the opposite.

Fear has many facets, and one of them is aggression. You get defensive because you interpret signs of threat in the other person, either on the physical or mental plane or both at the same time. This leads you to try to ‘get rid of them’ by canceling their voice, presence, or point of view. They represent a threat and you feel entitled to defend your position.

The problem is that conflict isn’t usually resolved by either systematically yielding or passively attacking. In fact, it’s common for these types of coping strategies to end up generating more conflict about the issue.

couple arguing

Conflict and fighting aren’t the same

The key to learning to manage conflict lies in understanding that it doesn’t have to be synonymous with fighting or confrontation. If you don’t want it to be, it won’t be. It depends exclusively on you. That said, the word exclusively must be underlined here, because, as they say, “it takes two to argue”.

Many conflicts are born and grow without those involved knowing exactly why. This is another important factor. Before pretending to solve a conflict, you must understand it. Where do your differences lie? Where’s the tension coming from? What’s causing the contradiction and why? By simply undertaking an exercise in understanding what’s happening, you’ll start to solve the problem.

Conflict is handled well when, instead of seeing it as an inevitable confrontation, it’s perceived as the need for a new pact. In effect, there’s something failing or missing, so you need to shuffle the cards again and come to a new agreement. If you view it like this, you won’t have too much difficulty in finding the solution.

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  • Monteiro, A. P., Serrano, G., & Rodríguez, D. (2012). Estilos de gestión del conflicto, factores de personalidad y eficacia en la negociación. Revista de Psicología Social27(1), 97-109.
  • Pereira, M. L. N. (2008). Relaciones interpersonales adecuadas mediante una comunicación y conducta asertivas/Adequate human relationships through an assertive conducts and communication. Actualidades investigativas en educación8(1).
  • Reimann, C. (2000). Hacia la transformación de conflictos: evaluación de los enfoques recientes de gestión de conflictos.