conflict gets in our way it really messes us up. True,
some kinds of conflict we cannot avoid. However, effective
management of the conflict is what’s most important.
Conflict need not escalate into vitriolic or belligerent
behavior. Conflict need not reach the point of physical
confrontation of any kind.
In intimate partner relationships, conflict can be ugly, but
it does not have to cause life-long pain. In the book
Empowering Couples by Dr. David Olsen, he outlines five
conflict resolution styles especially in relationships.
Here they are:
First, are the PURSUERS.
These are those who seek
to create connections so they can become more intimate and
closer. Because talking and expressing feelings is important
to them, they tend to feel rejected by their partner if the
partner wants more space. When the partner . . . in their
lives withdraws, pursuers will tend to pursue more
Second are the DISTANCERS.
These persons tend to be emotionally distant. They
often manage stress by retreating into their work and may
terminate a relationship when things become too intense.
They are less likely to open up emotionally when they feel
they are being pursued.
Third are the
UNDERFUNCTIONERS. These persons typically have
several areas in their lives in which they just can’t seem
to get organized. They tend to become even less organized
when under stress. They have difficulty displaying their
strong and competent side in intimate relationships.
Fourth are the
OVERFUNCTIONERS. They are quick to advise and
help out when others are having problems. They often have
difficulty showing their vulnerable, under functioning side.
Fifth are the BLAMERS tend
to react to stress with emotional intensity and combative
behavior. This is when it can get messy and sometimes
harmful to others. They like to change others and to put
others down in order to make themselves look good.
Blamers are usually people who
have been constantly shamed by their significant others
during childhood and in adult relationships. Hence, when
blamers they verbally put down others, they feel powerful.
In fact, their anger can make them feel invincible.
Here’s another perspective. What determines how one
manages perceived or actual conflicts is first how one feels
about him or herself. In other words, predictors of healthy
conflict management and even crime prevention are two
profoundly important aspects of emotional intelligence.
First, the proper development of INTRApersonal
intelligence—the understanding and managing yourself
effectively. Second, the proper development of INTERpersonal intelligence--understanding and relating
effectively with people. One author elaborates on
intrapersonal intelligence with the following statement:
“Intrapersonal intelligence is the ability to acknowledge,
value and manage your feelings so that they are expressed
appropriately and effectively, laying the groundwork for
meaningful relationships and productive teamwork. It is
also the ability to recognize and diagnose the emotion of
others and the ability to respond appropriately to emotional
I am strongly suggesting that when a conflict escalates into
serious physical confrontation it is usually evidence of
lack of intrapersonal intelligence. In addition, the person
would have allowed over time, the feelings of rage and
resentment (negative forms of anger) to be dictators of
one’s behavior. It’s a dangerously powerful feeling that
can only be harnessed if there is proper INTRApersonal
The place where poor intrapersonal intelligence is created
is in the home. Its roots are in poor parenting skills.
Many parents shame and blame their children more than praise
them. Or, children might observe the way their parents
managed conflict and model that behavior. Children do not
have to see parents physically fighting or even cursing each
other to learn poor conflict resolution skills. They may
only observe the constant ignoring of important
unconditional loving and acceptance. They could hear or see
negative accusations, ill treatment of others, disrespect of
private property, poor time management, taking advantage of
others, dishonesty or a serious lack of integrity. They can
observe cold treatment of close relatives and abuse of
neighbors. All of these and more can impact one’s own
personal view and how he or she relates to oneself—internal
communication. This sets the foundation for interpersonal
Parents, the non-violent future of our country is in your
Barrington H. Brennen, MA, NCP, a marriage and family
therapist and board certified clinical psychotherapist, USA.
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