Conflict is a natural part of life and relationships.  How people deal with conflict depends on their interpersonal style.   Each person’s general relational style falls somewhere on a continuum from passive to aggressive.


Passive                                           Assertive                                                   Aggressive

Passive people avoid conflict at all cost.  They work to keep others happy and feel very afraid of having any conflict with others.  They often have very negative beliefs about conflict, which may be influenced by personal life experiences.

Aggressive people are quick to speak their mind and often react with strong emotions when they perceive they are being insulted or treated unfairly.  Aggressive people do not usually avoid a conflict, and they may react with verbal or physical aggression.

Assertive people recognize when problems are important to address with others, and they also recognize when problems are not as important.  They may chose to accept small acts of injustice rather than confront a person.  Assertive people are usually able to confront others about important issues in a respectful, productive manner.

Deciding whether to avoid or confront various types of conflict is not always easy.  A passive person may struggle with feelings of anxiety, guilt, and self-blame after a relationship conflict.  If they choose to avoid the conflict, they may struggle with feelings of anxiety, resentment, and unhappiness.  An aggressive person may experience anger and resentment if they try to avoid a conflict.  However, aggressive individuals may also experience regret, uncertainty, and mixed emotions after engaging in a relationship conflict.  Passive and aggressive people differ on how they think about conflict, but both types struggle with their own feelings, thoughts, and behaviors regarding conflict.

What’s your relational style?  How does it affect your personal relationships, emotional well-being, job satisfaction, and self-esteem?  A person is not born with any particular relational style, but it is shaped over time as a result of life experiences and personality traits.  Furthermore, relational styles can be changed.  Counseling can help people understand why they react the way they do, how their relational style was shaped, and what keeps them stuck in old patterns.