Five Ways People React to Conflict

People react to conflict based on their culture, their nature, and the examples they
have seen. Most people react to conflict in one of five ways.

  1. My way. This person feels that his way is the only way. He keeps pushing until he gets his way or until the other person gets out of the way.
  2. No way. This person ignores the problem. Nothing is solved because he walks away from the conflict.
  3. Your way. This person wants the other person to be happy. He wants peace or approval so much that he always submits to the other person. This way can be peaceful, for a time, but it is also frustrating.
  4. Half way. This person gives up some things, part of the time. Each person gets some of what he wants. But he also loses some of what he wants.
  5. Our way. This couple works out problems together. They care about solving problems. But they also care about each other and their marriage. They want each person to be satisfied with the solution. And they each view their spouse as more important than
    their own personal needs.

In which of the five ways do you respond to conflict? Can you improve? People can change their responses to conflict. They can learn new responses if their ways are not as wise as they desire. God wants us to be at peace with each other. We are to be reconciled with God and with people (Matt. 5:23-24). Paul tells us to protect the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3). A good response to conflict enables us to live at peace within marriage.

Five Good Actions to do During Conflict

1. Listen in an active way.

  • Ask questions that relate to the topic and to what you heard.
  • Restate what you are hearing.
  • Be open to the other person's ideas rather than trying to defend yourself.

2. Clarify the problem.

  • Ask yourself and your spouse, "What is wrong?"
  • Ask, "Why is this important to you?"
  • Acknowledge your spouse's point of view. Say, "I can see this is important to you."

3. Ask for suggestions.

  • Ask, "What is your solution?"  Too often, people criticize or complain without seeking a solution. The time must come in conflict when you turn from the problem to seek the solution. Parents, you should always make it clear to your family members what they can do to please you. Otherwise, they will become discouraged and stop trying to please you.
  • Describe changes in behavior that you can make, "What can I do differently?"
  • Identify what a time of peace will look like. Ask, "How will we know that things have changed?"

4. Share your thoughts.

  • Stay calm.
  • Give information.
  • Clarify your point of view.
  • Find something in your spouse's complaint that you can agree with.

5. Agree on a solution.

  • State what you will do in the agreement and what your spouse can do to help you.
  • Affirm that both of you want to solve the problem. Write the agreement in a book and have all sign it who are concerned. Otherwise, the time may come when someone forgets the agreement.
  • Set a date to review your progress.

The content of this article is used by permission of "Faith & Action Series" and Dr. Wayde Goodall.  Please learn more about them at and