Conflicts Have Styles

When it comes to conflict and problem solving, my natural response is to go all in or run away. Over years, I learned to jump into “let’s solve it” mentality (ah, thanks to startups!). But this week, after attending a conflict facilitation workshop by Baltic Applied Theatre School, I realised that in some deep conflicts I prefer to hide and run away.

Reflecting on how I respond to conflicts brought me some paths to explore. So with this post I’m sharing what I learned in this workshop.

Finding the Solution doesn’t equal Resolving the Conflict


Conflict Styles

What was new to me was that there are different ways how people respond to conflict. Previously I was believing in the idea of system thinkers (which says that people are self-organised living systems capable of action). But in this workshop, we got to physically experience (through a role-play) how differently people feel at a conflicting situation, and where “let’s do it” mentality won’t bring the conflict resolution.

We looked at the Conflict Styles model by Diana Musho Hamilton:

  • Avoiding: dissapears in the situation
  • Confronting: pushes back
  • Accomodating: sacrifies their needs
  • Hybrid Passive Aggressive: waits for the first move from others

These words can mean anything. But we went an extra step and played these roles with masks. And voilà, we sensed how differently we respond to conflict! Especially, when we needed to try a role-play of a least used conflict style, pretty hard, huh!

At the turbulent moment, some participants felt a need to move the body to get some fresh air into the boiler room, some were silently coping and waiting for the first move from others, while others were in the fight mode of “getting it done and fixing it”. After seeing how different we are we noticed that we need different things in the same situation first, before we move into problem solving mode…

How to turn the Conflict into constructive Action?

The idea here is how to embrace the conflict instead of fighting it or ignoring it. My take-away was that embracing the conflict starts with the awareness of the needs. If as a group or even individuals experiencing an inner conflict we take space to inquire about our needs, partial resolution of the conflict is there.

After the workshop I left with more empathy questioning ‘Why people are in that style?’ and ‘What do people need in their conflict style?’ and ‘Which conflict style is worth the time in a given situation?’

As I realise that we’re always in a spectrum of conflict styles, it’s interesting to reflect about mine and people’s needs. When things get tense, some may need time and space, some prefer to talk, while some need to move the body first until a space for finding solution together can happen.

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