Last week I wrote a post about the importance of conflict, and now I want to delve a little deeper into this topic!
There are different ways that we tend to deal with conflict. Some people, when they come face to face with conflict, will erupt in anger and rage. They may shout, say verbally abusive things, or even act physically abusive.
Other people may act fearful and submissive and simply give up or give in to the another person’s demands, avoiding conflict, but also avoiding dealing with problems.
We each tend to react in one or two ways when it comes to conflict. We may have one way that we react around people that we don’t trust as much, and another way we react around those we do trust and with whom we are very familiar (i.e. family members).
Here are four types of conflict personalities that are illustrated in EMI’s “Confronting Conflict” program:
Like a lion, a person who tends to react with an attack response , uses anger, aggression, hostility, and intimidation. These personalities can snap into modes of rage in which they act verbally, physically, and/or emotionally abusive.
However, these people have a wonderful gift: passion and courage!
A redeemed “lion” is a person who uses their passion not for rage and abuse, but instead for courage, passion, toughness, and tenacity in pursuit of a greater and better purpose.
There are few things as beautiful and amazing as someone who uses their passion and courage to fight for the voiceless, to call for justice, to boldly speak truth, and to demand positive change.
*Before the next personality, let me warn you: If you have a fear of nocturnal rodents (besides hamsters) like I do, the next photo might make you a little jumpy.*
Ok, here we go…
Despite the creepiness of this photo, I think it’s a great illustration of what constant surrender to conflict can do to a person. Like an opossum will roll over and play dead when threatened, a person who yields and gives into conflict can feel dead inside.
Symptoms of this tendency include yielding too easily and giving in to other people in situations of conflict. It is a victimized, depressed, passive, and angry approach to conflict which often displays passive-aggressiveness, indirect communication, poor self-esteem, and victimization.
The “opossum” may appear happy and fine, but really deep down they are angry, because they are not voicing their opinions, or saying what they really want/need to say. They don’t participate in conflict. They surrender to it.
Never fear! When this personality is redeemed in a whole and healthy way, such people are harmony-seeking peacemakers who display graciousness and friendliness, but also don’t avoid necessary and healthy conflict.
Boy do we need more peacemakers in this world!
When I was about five years old, I had an obsession with trying to catch the little rabbits that would nibble on the clover in my family’s backyard. I would create traps out of cardboard and carrots to try to catch them.
When that didn’t work, I had to use my last resort: trying to catch the unbelievably adorable creatures with a butterfly net.
Unfortunately, this method didn’t work. If there’s one thing I learned about rabbits, it’s that when rabbits are frightened, they bolt. Blink and they’re gone.
Some people react in a similar way when it comes to conflict.
When tension arises, all they want to do is escape, withdraw, retreat from the situation, or leave the room. They live from a place of fearfulness. They act emotionally unavailable, perfectionistic, and shallow as a means to avoid conflict.
The ways that someone may run from conflict often include addictions to things such as alcohol, drugs, food, sex, and/or work.
If you tend toward this “rabbit” conflict personality like I do, then maybe you crack jokes to get out of potentially uncomfortable situations. Maybe your natural tendency is to try to act perfect and do things perfectly, hoping to avoid ever having any conflict in the first place (FYI: this doesn’t work).
But don’t worry, there’s hope for this personality too! A redeemed “rabbit” approach to conflict is one that transforms this person into the adventurous, openhearted, merciful, and forgiving person that they are meant to be.
Instead of running away from conflict, they can openheartedly run into the conflict and display fearless love, mercy, and forgiveness.
Last but not least, the deer. Like a deer in headlights, when conflict arises, this personality tends to freeze.
Conflict shocks them into inaction, anxiety, fear, and confusion. They act nervous, panicky, indecisive, and tentative. They are afraid of hurting others or doing the wrong thing, so they freeze, wanting to avoid any conflict whatsoever.
Physical manifestations of this response to conflict can show themselves as digestive and respiratory issues, neurological and psychosomatic disorders, and/or a general sense of panic.
For the “deer,” their beautiful redemption is to get to a place where they can be insightful, perceptive, sensitive, and tuned-in. In a world that is quick to speak but slow to listen, desensitized, and tuned-in to distractions, but tuned-out of real life, these are amazing gifts.
We aren’t all going to fall perfectly into one category. We’re human beings, not robots (or animals!).
Do you relate to any of the above personality types? Do you tend to react one way with people you barely know, and another way with people that you know well?
Do these personality types help you better understand some of your friends and family members who respond differently to conflict than you do?
In my next post I will cover some ways that we can break free from unhealthy approaches to conflict, and live more healthy, whole, and redeemed!
The information on the four animals and conflict personality types shared in this post is from EMI’s Redeeming Conflict workbook from their “Redeeming Conflict” class.
This is one of the best classes I’ve taken, and I highly recommend checking it out!