Our pastor has been preaching out of the book, Songs of Songs, from the Bible. It is chock full of great marital advice, and one such area is conflict. Every relationship will experience conflict. We all approach it differently, though, and my experience and training indicate our conflict style is often a reflection of our personality type.
The conflict styles I am going to share may fit our personalities, but they are not healthy ways of resolving issues. The truth is, apart from God, we fail miserably…all of us. Many of us came from toxic or dysfunctional homes and were not given any good examples of how to handle difficult conversations. We stumbled our way into unproductive patterns, and we have no thought or strategy to our conflict. We are impulsive and often destructive.
Jesus is a wonderful example for us, and the Good Book is full of helpful tips and suggestions for handling conflict in more productive ways. This week, though, I will share how many are currently approaching conflict.
Pastor Ryan had a good start, but I wanted to expand upon his insights. The first conflict style is the Sprinter/Stomper. This group is the aggressive person who will either just flee the discussion because it isn’t worth their time, OR they will stomp you out like a bug under their shoe. They feel as if they shut the argument down, so they were successful. You and I both know, though, that they deeply hurt the other person, and they squashed any chance of intimacy. Do this often enough, and you won’t have a relationship.
Next are the Spewers, and they shower you with their opinions and feelings without any regard to how you feel. Instead of listening, they dominate the conversation, often striving to prove how they are right and how very wrong you are. These people are very outgoing and wear their emotions on their sleeves. If they feel slighted or embarrassed in any way, they verbally assault you. You won’t get a word in edge wise, and they can get quite dramatic! These folks may feel better after throwing up all over you, but you feel beaten down. Once again, intimacy suffers.
The exact opposite of Spewers are Stuffers and/or Silent types. They are more introverted and keep all their emotions and feelings tucked safely away, close to the vest. They ride in on their white horses thinking they are taking the high road by giving you the silent treatment and not participating in such degrading antics as discussions until…they have no more room left. They can’t stuff one more feeling, and they exchange their silence for an emotional explosion! You will be on the receiving end of months’ worth (maybe even years) of pent-up frustrations, and you will quickly learn of every single offense you ever had against this person but didn’t know about it. Stuffers/Silent types can quickly become Spewers and dump everything they have upon you. Months of what seemed like peace ends in sheer ugliness.
Lastly are the Sideliners. These sticklers for accuracy are critical by nature, but when a conflict arises, they can detail you to death! They have a keen ability to derail the conversation to a whole new discussion, one in which they are expert in. Before you know it, you are arguing about something else, and the original discussion is completely lost in translation. Most likely, they have twisted things to the point where you cannot recognize it. They also have a great memory, and they will use it against you. Intimacy is destroyed, and nothing ever gets resolved.
I don’t know about you, but all of these conflict styles are flat-out awful! Yet, too many of us resort to them out of habit, laziness, or lack of education on a better way. Like anything, we have to work on being better. We cannot simply want to change; we need to do the necessary work!
Did you see yourself in any of these styles? Maybe you vacillate between a couple? As I mentioned, Jesus offers us a healthier way, one that builds intimacy. He focused on Solutions, not to be confused with telling others what to do and fixing their problems.
Next week I’ll share how we can all improve our interactions with others, avoid conflicts, and engage in healthier discussions that create solutions, build bridges of intimacy, and strengthen relationships. In the meantime, I encourage you to discover your communication style in my book, Leveraging Your Communication Style. In it, you will see your natural tendencies and understand yourself better.