5 Conflict Handling Styles for
Constructive Interpersonal Conflicts

Life is full of conflict—and we all have different conflict-handling styles. Whether you’re someone who dislikes conflict or someone who jumps in, rolls up their sleeves and engages, conflict is inevitable.

Conflict is a vital part of growth. In fact, one could pose that conflict IS growth. When a seed is planted, it must push its way through the ground toward sunlight. It must find a path through the dirt. It has to resist pests, drought and storms just to grow. Just like a seed, we must engage in conflict to grow and develop.

Growth is tough stuff. It’s not always pleasant and it doesn’t come easy. You might feel you and your partner are often engaged in conflict where you say terrible things to each other you later regret. Maybe you get passive-aggressive, shut down and give your partner the hidden middle finger. Maybe you play the blame game, telling each other things like, “You’re just like your dad,” or, “You NEVER do such and such…”

Whatever conflict you’re facing, one thing’s for sure: most partners have different conflict-handling styles, and some tend to play into others more clearly. In fact, just like a magnet, some conflict styles are drawn out by other styles. At work, you might be a Competitor or a Negotiator, but at home, you might be an Avoider. It’s important to identify these conflict-handling styles so we can better understand them and learn how to navigate the roadblocks that might come up as we’re stretching ourselves toward the sun.

The 5 Conflict Handling Styles: Explained

There are five conflict-handling styles: Avoiders, Competitors, Negotiators, Pleasers and Synergizers. Each of these types has specific traits—and there’s no type that’s “wrong” or “bad.” In many situations, different conflict-handling styles are appropriate and can even be seen as strengths.

We discuss the importance of conflicts and engagement in our new book, The Heart of the Fight. Conflict can actually strengthen relationships and help reenergize your connection. The goal of conflict should be to fight FOR the relationship rather than against, and to play by the rules of engagement—essentially to fight fair. To understand the way you fit into conflict, you must understand the different conflict-handling styles.

1. Avoiders

Avoiders can identify when a situation isn’t worth engaging in or pursuing. They pick their battles. Avoiders would also rather just put their head in the sand and pull back (unlike Pleasers). In most scenarios with Avoiders, we’re engaged in a lose/lose situation. The Avoider is too ambivalent to fight for a win, and the other party doesn’t have a chance to win because no one’s engaged with them. Some Avoiders think they are Pleasers, but if they become passive-aggressive, then the truth is, they’re simply practicing conflict avoidance.

2. Pleasers

Pleasers, on the other hand, want to make their partner happy. They tend to put their partner’s happiness above their own. While this is kind and very altruistic, it’s also a recipe for passive aggression and resentment. The Pleaser isn’t acting in a way that meets their own needs and yearnings—they’re simply doing what they think will make everyone else happy. They tend to be engaged in what we call a lose/win situation. They lose on the outcome so the relationship can win. While this is, of course, okay sometimes, it’s not ideal in all situations.

3. Negotiators

Negotiators are engaged in a win-some/lose-some balance. While this may seem ideal, there are times when negotiations can result in a mediocre outcome, pleasing neither party. For example, if a couple is arguing over dinner and one wants sushi and one wants steak, negotiating a deal where you both go to a burger joint might result in no one being happy with their dinner. It’s a small example, but when it comes to negotiation, there’s always the risk neither party will end up satisfied.

4. Competitors

Competitors are engaged in a win/lose battle. They want to win and they want to win all the time. While this can be great when we want to win the championship, we might be emotionally knocking our partner out, so we’re left standing alone holding the victory cup. The outcome doesn’t result in an ideal situation for the relationship. You might be the winner, but the relationship loses. Competition can drive us and keep us sharp. It can keep us moving toward the things we want. Maybe you’re right, but you might also end up alone.

5. Synergizers

Lastly, we have Synergizers. Synergizers are looking for a win/win situation. They’re working toward the goals of the relationship and trying to find a balance that acknowledges the yearnings of both parties. They listen. They share their vision with their partner. They acknowledge their partner’s role and the importance of the feelings of those around them. We should all be perfect Synergizers, but of course, the drawback is it takes time to get to that point. It doesn’t happen overnight.

Conflict Handling Styles: Each Style’s Strengths

Each of the conflict-handling styles can be appropriate in certain situations. Getting down to the bottom of each situation can help you understand the heart of the fight. While synergy is the ideal state, it’s all about give-and-take and working together toward an ideal outcome. It’s not going to happen right away. It requires communication and understanding. It requires both parties to be on board and working together.

A skilled Negotiator can be a wonderful asset in a relationship when you’re raising teenagers together. In a work situation, you might find your Negotiator skills are highly valued and folks walk away from interactions feeling there was a mutual benefit.

If you’re a Pleaser, your caring and nurturing side is strong. You’re probably sensitive to the needs of others and you read their emotions well. Those who engage with you will be drawn to your fun and lively style.

Avoiders will have an easy time circumnavigating typical “drama” and sweating the small stuff as it comes up. At times, conflict avoidance comes from a place of suppressing your feelings and trying not to “rock the boat” per se, but it can also come from being able to quickly discern whether a situation merits addressing or if you can just avoid and move on.

Competitors can get what they want when they want it. Again, in business, this might serve you very well. You might get the deals you want, drive sales, and make purchasing decisions that can save your company big bucks. You might also drive certain types away because you push too hard. It’s a fine balance.

Understanding the different conflict-handling styles can give you insight into your relationships with your partner and your children, as well as at the office. It’s not holding back on conflict, it’s moving forward with it and learning to embrace it. It’s using conflict to propel you toward an ideal state within your relationship. It takes work, but it’s well worth the effort.

For more on engaging in productive conflict, moving toward the things you want and discovering your conflict handling style, click here to learn more about our next More Life Training. Learn how to strengthen your relationships, reach for the things you desire, unlock your potential, and live your best life.

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Wright Living is a division of the Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.

What’s Your Work Personality
and Why Does it Matter?
Emotional Intelligence
in the Workplace

Everyone demonstrates their unique personality at work—and everyone is different. When we go to work, we’re faced with a combination of different traits in each and every employee and coworker.

 From CEO to manager to team member, everyone can benefit from understanding how the different personality types function at work. You’ll boost your social-emotional intelligence and you’ll understand how to better bring out the best in each other and in your team.

I’ve seen it work time and time again. Those with the highest social and emotional IQ learn how to work with different personality types to reassure them, bring out their strengths, and make sure their weaknesses work in their favor. They have a rocking career life, because they get it. Understanding work personalities helps you exhibit emotional intelligence in the workplace, allowing you to hit the big picture: increasing sales, creating harmony at the office, and keeping your clients happy.

For some it comes naturally, while others among us have to work a little to understand it and to heighten our sensitivity to the different personality types. By identifying what they are and playing off their various strengths, we can really create a strong team and keep things moving forward.

You might think there are certain people at work you just can’t get along with. There might be certain personality types that just rub you the wrong way. Maybe you can’t stand people who are data driven and “anal” (the Analyzer types), or maybe the constantly bubbly cheerleader types really grate on your nerves (Energizers). Maybe you try to accommodate everyone and help them to get along because you’re a Cooperator. Maybe you prefer to be in control and work within set parameters like a Regulator.

In the late 80s, we devised a scale to help you ramp up your emotional intelligence in the workplace by better understanding each personality type and where YOU fall on the spectrum. There are four personality types and most people fall into a combination of types.

Visit our website www.wrightliving.com to find out how you can take our personality assessment in Chicago to determine your workplace personality.

The 4 Personality Types, Explained

The four personality types are as follows:

  1. Cooperators: Prefer everyone gets along; low-risk takers.
  2. Analyzers: Hate making mistakes; would rather do something right than fast.
  3. Regulators: Prefer to dominate and lead; align with Analyzers over accuracy.
  4. Energizers: Lead, but without follow-through; may share vision with Regulators but prefer Cooperators.

We call this the C.A.R.E. profile. There are certain personality types that mesh well with each other and certain types who tend to butt heads. Regulators often find Cooperators to be too “Suzy Sunshine” and easy-going. Analyzers tend to get frustrated with Energizers because they aren’t concerned enough with accuracy. Energizers aren’t afraid to take risks but sometimes they have big ideas without the follow-through. Cooperators are low-risk and prefer an environment of cohesiveness and teamwork.

If you’re a visionary personality who really likes sales and rallies people around you, you might be an Energizer. To a Regulator, this energy can seem a little high-risk and out there. An Analyzer might find you frightening because you can’t always see the forest for the trees.

You can see how these different personality types might clash or mesh. The key to getting everyone to work together is to acknowledge each person’s areas of strength and each person’s fears about risk. Look at the ways you affect those around you and learn to embrace and play up your own strengths as well.

As I said before, most people fall somewhere on the spectrum within a combination of two or three personality types. If you’re a Regulator/Analyzer, you might draw on your big-picture visionary thinking to click with an Energizer and you might bond with a Cooperator when it comes to choosing lower-risk areas that are more beneficial for the team.

You can see how the different personality types translate when it comes to working with a customer or client. If you have high emotional intelligence in the workplace, you can shift from being excited to see an Energizer, to being detail-oriented when you’re dealing with an Analyzer. A Cooperator might appreciate a personal connection, where a Regulator might be more concerned about making sure everything is working correctly and according to plan.

How to Create High Functioning Teams

To get your team to gain a better understanding of each other, study each personality type and get everyone familiar with each of their strengths. Ensure your team members take the personality quiz or read through all of the personality profiles together. There’s no personality type that’s “bad” or incongruent with success. When each of your employees gains a better understanding of where they fit on the team and everyone’s strengths, they can use that understanding as a platform to frame their interactions.

If there’s someone you just can’t seem to win over, examine his or her personality type. When you’ve got someone who always points out the negative, they might be an Analyzer/Regulator who’s actually trying to protect you by watching your back. If you’ve got someone who does excellent work but often misses deadlines, they might be an Analyzer who’s so concerned with accuracy that it slows them down. Once you understand where each person is coming from, it can be easier to adjust expectations and goals.

Personality types can have a big influence on the way we interact with each other at the office and in our day-to-day lives. We can get hurt when we’re dealing with personalities incongruent to our own, but acknowledging those differences and working through them is key to finding harmony within our working life.

Our work should bring us joy! We should strive to have a “pay for play” workspace where we can have fun, learn and grow and share the things that excite us and ignite us.

For more ways to discover your true self and how it can bring you success, visit Wright Now. We offer an array of courses geared to help you learn more about yourself, your career, and your relationships. So don’t miss out on the life you want. Go for it now!

Listen to this episode here on BlogTalkRadio.
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To continue the conversation on engaging with others and to discover ways to bring out your best self, click here to learn more about our next More Life Training. You’ll learn skills to become more alive, more connected, and fully engaged in your life and your career.
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Want to improve your sales? The Wright Sales Program is a hands-on, experiential program that provides sales professionals with an opportunity to boost their sales performance through the application of social and emotional intelligence to their selling techniques. [Learn more!]

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Wright Living is a division of the Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.

Relationship Real Talk:
Playing the Waiting Game

Are you playing the waiting game in your dating life? In your relationship? Do you ever just wonder what are you really waiting for?

Read this post if you’re:

  • Waiting for her to call
  • Waiting for him to text you back
  • Waiting to make the next move
  • Waiting to commit or settle down


Maybe you went out on a few dates with someone and then suddenly *poof!* they disappear…and you’re left waiting and wondering if they’re ever going to call you again. It’s true that some relationships just end without much discussion or fanfare and we don’t get the closure we want or need. It can leave us feeling unsettled. We don’t have the opportunity to express our feelings or grievances and that can leave us with some unresolved issues.

What about in your relationship? Maybe you’re feeling some distance in your relationship, but you’re not sure why. How much of this is natural and how much is a form of “ghosting” within the relationship? Are you emotionally withdrawing because you can’t gain control in the relationship? Or are you feeling pushed away? Deep down, is it really fear of commitment?

Many times we go into relationships and dating with preconceived notions. We tell ourselves, “I’m afraid of commitment,” or “I’m not good at expressing what I want in relationships.” We call these limiting beliefs.

When we go into relationships with these limiting beliefs, we end up acting out a self-fulfilling prophecy. Things go exactly as we expect them to…because that’s exactly what we set ourselves up to expect. We believe we “are” a certain way and that belief gives us permission to behave accordingly. Holding onto these limiting beliefs can feel safe and comfortable (even if it’s not getting us what we really want).

When We Don’t Get the Gift of Closure

When a relationship ends without the gift of closure, it’s our job to work through and resolve our own feelings and conflicts about it. We can gather lessons and takeaways about our behavior and our contributions to the relationship—but remember: we only have to take responsibility for and own up to the stuff that’s ours. Relationships are a two-way street. Chances are, if someone walked away without saying why or just stopped calling, well, there’s some baggage of their own they need to work on, too.

Here’s where our seven rules of engagement can really help us learn more about our relationships. (You can learn more about the secrets to a happy relationship that no one ever taught you in our book, “The Heart of the Fight.”)

Two of these rules really come into play in this situation:

  1. We are each 100% responsible for our own emotions, feelings and satisfaction in any relationship; and
  2. We can each only take on 50% of the blame in any disagreement because, hey, it takes two to tango.

As we work through what happened, we have to own both what we brought into the relationship and the times when we held back. Were we really engaged with the other person? Did we express the things we truly wanted and fully jump in? Were we true to ourselves?

Sick of playing the waiting game?
Now is your chance to build lasting, healthy relationships.

Reach out to our experienced relationship coaches
to discover how to bring out your best in every relationship.

Dating is a great opportunity to measure and examine our interactions in a variety of situations. We can learn, “Hey, this is what I hope to get out of relationship, this is what scares me, and this is where I tend to shut down,” and then we can work on how we can accept our reactions and work on expressing our needs better in the future.

We can also see the times when we had different expectations or desires than the other person. If one of you wants a picket fence, a house and three kids, and the other one wants to travel the globe…well, there’s a fundamental difference that may just mean the two of you want different things out of life. It’s totally fine to move toward what you want and strive for your own goals while seeking a relationship that can help you achieve and accomplish those things rather than stand as a barrier.

Playing the Waiting Game when Commitment is the Question

Sometimes we reach the point in our relationship when things start to get serious. Many of us may experience a tendency to pull back a little or balk at the thought of being “reined in.” Once we’re in a relationship, we might feel we’re losing freedom or even a part of ourselves. We might feel like there’s the expectation that we have to change or be something we’re not.

The best relationships allow us to be our true selves. The best relationships are great because they bring out the best traits and strengths in both parties. If you find you’re scared of committing to a relationship, you might need to explore what’s not being met within that union.

Is there a reason you’re holding back? Are you listening to your limiting beliefs, such as, “I’m not the relationship type,” or “I don’t do well when I’m committed to one person”? Is there more to your apprehension?

Explore why you aren’t ready to jump in. If you find some genuine incongruences, then they need to be addressed. If you’ve had the hard conversations and expressed the things you want out of life and you’re still holding back, maybe you need to examine if you’re clinging to preconceived notions of what a relationship is (restrictive, holding you down) and let go of those beliefs if you find them to be untrue.

Whatever you learn from dating, it can be a great opportunity to explore some of these larger questions about ourselves and how we work with and interact with other people. There’s a great chance to find out new things about who you are and what you want from a relationship. Do the work and you’ll enjoy the benefits.


Listen to this episode here on BlogTalkRadio or here on iTunes.

Let us know how your dating is going! Tune in to our podcast every Wednesday to talk about dating, relationships, and how to bring out your best self. To continue the conversation on engaging with others and to discover ways to bring out your best self, click here to learn more about our next More Life Training.

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Rachel Zwell

Rachel Zwell is one of the core coaches in the Year of Transformation program. She is an emergence coach specializing in empowering individuals to increase their fulfillment and satisfaction in their lives, to achieve their professional and personal goals, and to develop their leadership skills. She coaches and mentors people to develop self-awareness, vision, strategies, and to build skills in social and emotional intelligence. She believes in full engagement and aliveness, and trains people to see and overcome the barriers that prevent them from living fully.

Featured image “Worried Girl” courtesy of Ryan McGuire licensed under CC by 1.0. The original image was altered for this use.

Wright Living is a division of the Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.