Active & Passive Responses to Conflict

Conflict often arises in families, but ignoring it solves nothing.
... Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images

You may have experienced friction in friendships, fights within your family, or trouble at school or work. It is tempting to deal with conflict passively, but often that will leave you unhappy. Being too aggressive in the face of conflict can worsen the situation and can ruin your relationships. It is important to find a measured, fair way to deal with conflict. Assertive behavior usually gains you respect and satisfies everyone involved.

1 Ignoring The Problem

You might ignore the issue by refusing to talk about it or changing the subject if someone else mentions it. Avoiding the person you have a problem with is a common way of responding passively to conflict. You might avoid going to places where you are likely to see him or even block his calls. While avoiding confrontation for a while may be a good way to calm down, it doesn't resolve the issues in the long term.

2 Giving In

Giving in to demands is a form of passivity. So this might mean doing something the other person's way, even if you think your way is better. Yielding to people's pressures often causes other problems. A study published in the "European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology" in 2009 showed that students suffered more strain and exhaustion when they tried to manage conflict passively. While friction between people always caused a certain amount of stress, avoidance or giving in was shown to cause even more.

3 Compromise

Passive responses are often well-intentioned and designed to keep the relationship intact, but guys and girls can still build strong relationships without treading on anyone's toes. Figuring out a compromise is an active, assertive way of dealing with conflict, and also ensures that everyone's needs are at least partially met. Taking turns, or letting go of some of your desires to meet the other person's needs, shows respect for his position and feelings, and shows that you have a mature relationship.

4 Integration

Sometimes you may struggle to find a good solution to conflict, because it seems that everyone loses out a little by compromising. An active, and sophisticated, response to conflict is to find a solution where everyone's opinions, needs and points of view are included. It's like having your cake and eating it. Integrating everyone's perspectives usually makes people happier than compromising, because everyone can agree that their wishes have been considered. Start by looking at what common ground you have with others and start to build a solution around that.

Beth Burgess is a health and happiness expert. Burgess works as a therapist, specializing in addiction, anxiety, stress and mental well-being. Author of "The Recovery Formula" and "The Happy Addict," she writes articles to help others achieve happy lives and healthy relationships.