Conflicts are normal in all relationships, even loving ones.  It’s vital that these differences are resolved.  If not, the feelings between you and your partner will gradually diminish.  

Different personality types handle conflicts in different ways, and the way they argue depends on their personality type.  You may find that on some issues, you use one emotional style, and on other issues, you use another one.  The better you know yourself and the better you know your mate, you’ll be more capable of dealing with conflicts in a more positive manner and have healthier outcomes – healthier for you and healthier for your relationship.

How Different Personality Types Handle Conflict

Dependent people play a passive role when faced with conflicts.  They exhibit weakness while burying any strengths they have.  They want their partner to have compassion for them.  They want to ignore the problem, hoping that everything returns to the way it was before the problem became obvious.  They struggle against dealing with the problem in any way.

Although they are hesitant to admit that a problem exists, when they do, they are quick to say the fault is theirs.  They criticize their partner for being vicious and mean.  They see themselves as the victim.

Controlling people do everything they can to keep their weakness secret while intimidating their partner.  They try to make their partner feel weak and powerless without them.  Can you see how the dependent person and the controlling person work hand-in-hand  and how they complement each other’s personalities?

Controlling people are quick to point out any problem, making sure that they aren’t seen as the one at fault.  They blame their partner for causing the problem and always being at fault.  Their partner is always in the wrong.  They want to make sure their partner becomes submissive and admits the problem was the fault of their partner alone.  Only when their partner does this will the relationship go back to the way it was before.  Controlling people can then make strict rules and guidelines after the conflict so their partner knows the parameters in the future.

Competitive people overstate their power.  They try to make their partner anxious that they will leave them.  They charge their partner with preferring other people over them and being disrespectful and ungrateful.  They threaten to leave their mate.  They don’t actually want to resolve the problem.  Instead, they want to overwhelm their partner so their partner feels defeated.

All three of these personalities are not very healthy.  They may or may not deal with the problem, and if they do, they don’t resolve the problem in a way that is satisfactory for both parties.

There is a way to deal with conflict in a way that is beneficial for both parties and the relationship.  It’s called the mature way.

Mature people want to grasp the facts of the situation.  They talk with their partner to fully understand and work out the problem.  They admit to being at fault if they are.  They are quick to give their partner the benefit of the doubt and forgive them.  They do their best to resolve the problem so that both partners’ wants and needs are met.

Tips for Dealing with Conflict in an Effective Manner

Rule number one is to communicate how you see the situation and your feelings about it plainly and in a straightforward manner.  Do this without criticizing your partner or harming your relationship.

Tips for Beginning

When both you and your partner understand these guidelines for dealing with conflict in a healthy way, you’ll be able to discuss anything that is a problem and resolve it fairly quickly.  Keep in mind that either partner can begin the process.

Identify the specific incident that is upsetting you.  Make sure this what is truly making you angry, and if you need to dig deeper, do so.  Determine whether you are exaggerating the problem.  Pinpoint the exact behavior you want to see changed.

Talk to your partner about this problem as soon as possible.  Plan a specific time in a private space to talk with your partner, and do your best to make sure it’s when your partner is in a good mood.  Allocate an hour or so to discuss the matter. 

Tips for Having the Talk

When you meet, clearly convey what the problem is and what behaviors you are upset about.  Be specific in describing the behavior, and address only one behavior at this time.  Communicate your concern about your partner’s behavior, not their personality.  Don’t generalize by saying such things as, “You never…” or “I’m always…”

Tell your partner how their behavior harms you in some way.  You may be afraid of something or lonely or concerned about something that’s happening in the family or the household.  Share your thoughts about this.

Then share your feelings about the situation truthfully and candidly. 

Here are some don’ts about expressing yourself:  Don’t criticize or blame your partner.  Don’t call them names or belittle them.  Don’t bring up old hurts or mistakes from the past.

Tips for Paying Attention to Your Partner

Be aware of the maximum your partner can take emotionally and stay within those limits.  Avoid derogatory comments that are so painful to your partner that they start to cry, attack you, walk away from the discussion, want to leave you entirely, or hate you.  Request that your partner let you know when you are “touching a raw nerve.”  When they do, stop and wait until they are ready to proceed.

As you describe what you see as the problem and the harm it’s causing, ask your partner to summarize what you are saying.  This way, your partner is able to get a deeper understanding of your perspective.

Even if your partner curses, cries, yells or offers a defense, understand that this is a prelude to solving the problem.  Keep calm and stay interested in resolving the conflict.  Don’t stop your partner from expressing themselves or act as though you don’t care.

Tell your partner what behavior you would like to see instead.  Be sure to be realistic and ask for changes that are achievable and fair.  Don’t make extreme demands that your partner is not capable of doing.  Be specific, not vague.

Talk about the positive outcome you would like to see.  Share how you will feel, how your life will be better or how your family will be better if they make the change.  Also share what you will do if the changes are made and if they are not made.  Identify rewards and punishments.

Tips for Agreeing

Cooperate together until you come upon a compromise that is satisfactory to both of you.  Talk about both of your perceptions about the problem.  You may find that your partner understands things in a completely different way.  If so, take their perception into account when you discuss how to resolve the issue.

Weigh different options.  Look at the issue from many sides and what would work best to resolve it.  Aim for a fair and doable agreement.

When you decide on a course of action, write it down, date it, and have both you and your partner sign it.  Be sure to include all options you discussed that may be doable.  Having a record will keep you on track.

Tips for the Days Following the Agreement

Establish a trial period for trying out and evaluating the compromise.  Once you’ve tested the agreement, talk again about how it’s working out.  Try another agreement if the first one isn’t working well. 

Put the incident behind you and ask your partner to do the same.  Forgive each other.  You may even have a celebration to rejoice in reaching consensus in solving this problem.  

Make a point to show appreciation to your partner for discussing the issue and working out a solution.

Tips for If It's Not Time to Discuss the Issue Now

If you find that the feelings of either one of you are too strong, schedule another time to discuss the matter. 

Don’t drop the issue because you’ll probably argue about it again at a later time and the feelings will be even more intense then.

Tips for If and When Your Partner Requests a Change from You

If the shoe is on the other foot and your partner is the one who asks to discuss an issue, listen to your partner’s perceptions.  Express back to your partner what you understand their thoughts and feelings are. 

Work towards resolving the issue in as kind and thoughtful a way as you can. 

If you were wrong, admit it and apologize.  

Conflict is inevitable in almost all relationships.  However, if you can work with your partner to deal with these conflicts effectively, you both will be able to build a strong relationship.  Not only that, you’ll have more confidence that you can create win-win situations for both of you.  Conflicts will become less traumatic and also decline in frequency.  That will lead to greater happiness and harmony within the relationship.

Author's Bio: 

Vivian Harte is the co-author of Self-Esteem for Dummies in the Dummies series. She has helped over 12,000 people learn and use assertiveness skills during the last 14 years. She teaches online classes on assertiveness, self-confidence, and teamwork. She has a Bachelors degree in Sociology and a Masters degree in Public Administration. She taught college classes for many years in Tucson, Arizona. She has two grown children who are both successful. She lives in Tucson with her husband, three dogs and two cats.

She offers three online courses and 1-on-1 coaching, and you can find out more about these at her website, self-esteem-for-me.com. Discover how to improve your relationships and be a stronger personality in her online course Stop Being a Doormat and Start Using Your Personal Power to Build Healthy Relationships.