How do you handle conflict?

Most of us use a variety of styles depending on the person, the situation and our stress level. How we deal with our spouse at home is likely to be different than how we deal with our boss in the workplace.

Here are some brief thoughts on the strengths and struggles of the 5 styles of dealing with conflict, adapted from Johnson, 1981.

11298wudax6u5mo1. The Turtle: Avoidance

The strength of this style is that this person can easily look past conflicts and realizes most conflicts will solve themselves. They are calm on the outside and help de-escalate emotions in conflict.

The struggle with this style is the tendency to minimize, deny, and avoid conflict altogether. Major conflict tends to grow worse when it isn’t addressed.

2. The Teddy Bear: Accommodation

The strength of this style is how likeable and lovable this person is in most situations. How could you be mad at them? They want and need harmony. They will accept blame just to bring peace to angry situations.

The struggle of this style is that a teddy bear may be taken advantage of, becoming a doormat. The can enable others by not allowing them to face and wrestle with conflict. Secretly, they tend to have a low self-esteem and use likability from others as a way to build their own self-confidence.

3. The Shark: Competition

The strength of this style is the ability to be strong, courageous, and bring a conflict out in the open quickly. A shark is a leader that can confront bullies.

The struggles are becoming too pushy, tactless, and hurting peoples’ feelings. Sharks can escalate emotions and create barriers easily.

4. The Fox: Compromise

Their strength is communication and a willingness to find win-win or lose-lose compromises. Often the fox is able to craft intelligent intermediate solutions.

The struggles are deceptiveness and manipulation. People may feel “outfoxed” and cheated by foxes.

5. The Owl: Collaboration

The strength of this style is integrity. Owls can build trust, respect and deeper relationship. They are not tied to their way and tend to have an open mind for pragmatic solutions that create a win-win experience.

The struggle is that owls must have two willing parties to collaborate. These parties must have high levels of communication skills and emotional intelligence. Some conflicts require quick solutions and this style may take too long.

Coaching points:

  1. How do you cope with conflict?  Are you a turtle, a teddy bear, a shark, a fox, or an owl?
  2. What strengths and struggles do you face in your conflict management style?
  3. How do your top 5 strengths from the Strength Finders 2.0 influence your conflict management style?

Brent O’Bannon helps entrepreneurs and workplaces to grow stronger, work smarter, and live richer as the world’s 1st Gallup Certified Strengths Coach at and .

Image: Michelle Meiklejohn /

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