Change Your Conflict Style Change Your Life: Conflict Series, Work, Home & Play Part 2

Whatever conflict style you have learned you can actually unlearn. You can make your world so much better just by changing your conflict style to encompass a more deliberate and self aware “catch & release” method of conflict resolution.

You do have a conflict style that is unique to you and your story. In Part 1 on conflict we talked about where we find conflict and how destructive it can be in all areas of life when not handled well. In this blog we will talk about the fact that you have your own unique conflict style and that you come by it honestly. In coaching one of the main goals is to create awareness of oneself and from there we widen the gap between automatic thinking and actions. This way our capacity to recognize our choices is broadened, options are explored, and we are more likely to make choices to become who we want to be, as well as, how we want to impact the world around us.

In order to create an oversimplification about conflict style I will divide differing styles into categories and will also note some key vocabulary.

Conflict Style: The tendency to use ways of problem solving that are within your current reach. For example, you have a suitcase and in it are the ways you have learned to solve problems that were gleaned from childhood, family of origin, friends, and eventually co-workers. Each style has a payoff (you get something from it) and a downside.

Different Conflict Styles:

1. anxious/avoidant

2. denial

3. bulldozer

4. catch and release

These styles of conflict are somewhat obvious in their title, but let’s dive in for a moment for clarification

The anxious/avoidant conflict style is where we avoid conflict at all costs because of fear, plain and simple. Conflicts can be really scary. The thinking here is that if I wade in and the other person or group doesn’t like it I will suffer. So in order to avoid any suffering I won’t say anything in order to keep the peace.

  • Payoff: I am no longer fearful and can keep things the way they are (familiar).
  • Downside: I never say what I truly want, never get what I truly want and no one really knows me or benefits from my gifts and talents. Life is experienced with a lack of true intimacy. Both personal life and work life is completely unfulfilling. Sometimes this person suddenly leaves a relationship or blows up at work seemingly out of the blue.
  • Remedy/ Face the giants: Fear of rejection, humiliation, degradation, exclusion.

Supportive solution: Waypoint coaching can help you face these giants that keep you stuck in the avoidant conflict style of relating. Remember that if a man or woman stands for nothing he/she can fall for anything. Find your inner strength and this type of working towards awareness will change your life as well as the world within your influence.

The denial/ostrich conflict style is where the avoiders deek and dodge issues the ostrich actually is much worse. The ostrich believes that there isn’t a conflict to sort out purely by the fact that they don’t look at reality. The deniers make up their own stories & interpretations as well as surround themselves with “yes” men and women to keep them happy with what they choose to see, which, is nothing related to reality at all. It might be hard for some to believe, but this is actually a predominantly favoured style of ineffective leaders, CEOs, managers and superintendents. Those who subscribe to the denial/ ostrich conflict style actually believe if they can’t see it or hear it for themselves it does not exist. The operative word in here is “can’t” see or hear . They won’t look at reality and expect those around them to keep them safe from the truth. The narcissism inherent in these roles often beg for those around them to lie to them in order to feed their sense of grandiosity. Do the deniers of global warming ring a bell? How about he deniers of Covid-19?

  • Payoff: If I don’t see it it doesn’t exist and I get to be safe and feel in control.
  • Downside: When I don’t know what is going on and only live for myself I can’t experience life as it was meant to be lived and I don’t impact people in ways where I can make a difference. My life feels shallow when I live like this.
  • Remedy: Face reality and strengthen your capacity to handle tough situations. Invite other’s point of view into the situation and you will see the world more wholly instead of through one tiny lens. Yours.

Supportive solution: Waypoint coaching can support you as a leader to help you let go of the reigns while fostering the best your staff have to offer. When we embrace collaboration, creativity and innovation inherent in those we hire our workforce becomes a force to be reckoned with. Waypoint coaching can support you to make a profound difference in your organization.

The bulldozer conflict style is just as it sounds. This thinking is from the belief set that if I want something to happen I have to force people to do what I want. This comes in many forms. Relationship and workplace “laws” are essential for the bulldozer. In a relationship the laws follow this type of pattern: Do as I tell you or I’m going to make your life miserable until I get what I want. In the workplace it sounds similar but under the guise of policies, procedures and staff evaluations slanted to produce conformity as opposed to ensuring standards that actually matter. Often failing to follow the directives will certainly result in some sort of punishment/consequence for the person in the relationship or staff member who fails to comply.

  • Payoff: If you do what I want I will feel that I am very important and in charge.
  • Downside: Get prepared to lose a spouse/significant other, and employees etc. There is certainly going to be an exodus from imposing this style of conflict. This style of conflict will certainly create a loss of intrinsic control for those at the mercy of the bulldozer. Health issues often arise with those on the receiving end of such disrespectful treatment. If you want to be alone in your life and be a lousy boss then this conflict style is for  you.
  • Remedy: Examine your need to be in control of other people. Ditch it. Learn what it means to bring out the best in the people around you and begin to see yourself as an important part of facilitating success as opposed to forcing it. Forcing success never works. You will only alienate yourself from people when you use brute force found in the bulldozer conflict style.

Supportive solution: Waypoint coaching can support you to uncover this damaging conflict style. If you find your life has a steady stream of people exiting stage left then perhaps it is time to examine and reflect upon the only person you can control, that is, YOU.

The catch & release conflict style: practices the art of re-directing conflict so that it goes to a better place, that is, towards a positive outcome. Those that are good at catch & release have developed a sense of awareness especially of their own nervous system. Let’s face it, when someone is angry at us our autonomic nervous system kicks in. Our underarms sweat, our breath becomes shallow, thoughts race and we can quickly go into flight or fight mode. With our own system activated it is difficult to think clearly. I will share more about catch & release in much more detail in part 3 of this series. Suffice to say the catch & release conflict style is where the person involved in the conflict manages their own emotions, diffuses the situation and releases a new way of thinking about a touchy issue back into the verbal transaction.

  • Payoff: If I can diffuse the situation I can better influence the outcome for the good of all involved. I am in control of me.
  • Downside: It isn’t always easy to re-direct difficult people who are headstrong with their own agenda.
  • Remedy: Becoming increasingly self aware and aware of the similar needs/wants within others you will be the leader who who looks for a win/win in every situation. You will definitely help to create an atmosphere of mutual respect. When you practice catch & release you will become a better role model for your family, work colleagues, and even your boss.

Supportive solution: Waypoint coaching can support you towards developing the kind of awareness within yourself when conflicts arise in any situation. Learning new ways of solving conflicts can and will change how you move through your life and certainly will give you the kind of peace you long for. Conflict resolution is an “inside job”. Are you ready to change your life?



Weekly word to the wise

Remember that you have a conflict style. Looking at conflict style belonging to someone else won’t change a thing. It is your conflict style that needs to grow in order to lead others into a healthier way of relating. You may exhibit some, or a combination of the above noted conflict styles. Just remember any conflict style that you have learned you can “unlearn.”

Let’s dive into moving towards the catch & release conflict style in part 3.

Thanks for reading,


Waves Design