Most people don’t like conflict. If you are not skilled at working with conflict, it is very easy to use drama-filled strategies to react to your anxiety about the situation. When conflicts hit, it can be a ready-made environment for the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT)™ roles to emerge.
When reacting to conflict, there are three different approaches that are typical of the DDT. You can:
- Choose to focus on your own needs and winning. This can be efficient and may seem to be the best approach at first, especially in a competitive culture where the strong and domineering are rewarded. Alienating others is common with this approach.
- Choose to show only a concern for the other side and their needs. This “give-in” strategy may fool you – and the other(s) – into thinking that you have resolved the conflict. The desire to please can temporarily make the conflict go away, while diminishing your needs and weakening your relationships.
- Sidestep the conflict altogether. In this approach, you choose to simply not talk about the conflict and thereby not show any concern, either for yourself or the other person. There’s no conflict if you don’t acknowledge it, right? The conflict becomes invisible on the exterior, while gathering steam underneath the surface, ready-made for an explosion at a later date.
William Ury, an internationally known expert on conflict resolution, calls these three reacting strategies the 3 A’s of conflict.
The first is an Attacking style, which is the approach of the Persecutor role in the DDT. The strategy is to take control, command and win by intimidation.
The second is an Accommodating approach, which aligns with the Rescuer role. Rescuers often manage their anxiety about the conflict by pleasing others.
The third “A” is for Avoiding, which is the primary strategy of the Victim role. The Victim mentality is to stay above the fray, not take responsibility and simply avoid the conflict while saying “Poor me. Look at what I must endure.”
We propose there is a fourth “A” in working with conflict and that is to Accept.
Accept that conflict happens in life and that the situation exists. The first three approaches are all reactions to the anxiety and stress you feel in response to the situation.
When we were first married and started working together we both felt we were perfectly suited and could work through any conflict. Boy did we wake-up to a surprise! Once we accepted there will always be times of conflict, we gained a new perspective and reduced how much we both personalized the conflicting situation.
The Creator, Challenger and Coach roles in TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic)™ do not deny the existence of conflict. Quite the contrary. Creators have learned to observe their reactive “A’s” when they emerge, and have discovered far more resourceful ways of working with conflict.
For instance, they look for the source of the conflict. Is it a disagreement on envisioned outcomes? Does the conflict come from differences of perspective on current reality? Once the source is identified, they seek to co-create ways of moving through the conflict without denying it, keeping their focus on what they want to create together.
By accepting conflict when it arises, you will have a greater chance to relax, be with the situation as it is, and work toward a co-creating resolution.