While you are winding down the year and spending more time with family, conflict is probably not a subject you want to think about. Unfortunately, we tend to experience conflict the most with those closest to us. There is no better time to understand how you handle conflict than around the holiday season.

It is important to understand that conflict often starts small and in our own minds first, before transitioning outwardly and becoming actual tension between people with verbal expressions of frustration.

It happens in one of two ways:

    1. Either we say or do something and unintentionally hurt someone’s feelings
    2. Or someone else says or does something that unintentionally hurts our feelings

(Sometimes, of course, people can be intentionally hurtful, but that is rarely the case. It only feels that way to the one who is hurt.)

When one of these two situations happens, an inner conflict begins. After that, multiple types of behavior can occur while you are trying to deal with the conflict:

    1. Evasive: An individual will ignore or avoid the person that hurt them but hold on to the hurt and will stay frustrated at the person, trying not to show it.
    2. Defensive: An individual will show passive aggression and defensiveness, but not be clear on what hurt them or why they are upset.
    3. Aggressive: An individual will debate and argue in a heated manner, sharing what is upsetting but in an unproductive way.

These are the three most common, but there are other responses and emotional elements that can come into play as well. We generally don’t have just one response. We might be more likely to react one way over another, but our response can change depending on the situation and who it is we are in conflict with.

The key is understanding how you most often respond in conflict. When we find ourselves in a conflict situation but don’t understand our responses, it can be hard to resolve conflict appropriately. At the end of the day, no one really wants to be in conflict. It is important to understand how you respond, then work on your own behavior and figure out the best approach for yourself to respond in a more productive way. Only then will you be able to build deeper, more meaningful relationships.

So, how do you handle conflict?