Fire & Ice – What’s my conflict resolution style and the relationship problems it can cause?
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghFebruary 14, 2019 conflict resolution, making up after fights, pittsburgh counseling and wellness, relationship resolutions0 comments
When couples say that they have conflict or problems with communication they really mean that they have a trigger topic that is non solvable or that they have different ways of managing conflict. This causes their disagreements to have a fire or ice quality. I will describe each of these styles and inherently none of them is worse that the other, but depending on what your partner’s style of conflict is, they can lead to further issues.
A fire conflict style describes a person who may boil over quickly. Like fire they are quick to heat. When something triggers a person with a fire style in conflict their irritation will rise. They will likely seek to discuss the issues, sometimes in a way that causes greater conflict if they use criticism or demandingness instead of softer and mindful approaches. Often a person who is fire in conflict can cool down as quickly as they become enraged and then be glad to act like nothing ever happened. While it is definitely not recommended that a couple have big disagreements and not process them, the person with this style of conflict can be fine with their ups and downs. If two people with a fire style end up in a pair, they will likely have many heated quarrels that have passion and intensity. Words can be said that end up hurting, perhaps even threatening to end the relationship leading to a make-up break up syndrome. Let us also distinguish this from physical or emotional abuse. While those types often have a fire quality, they exhibit a much more serious pathology which should cause the victim to seek safety and law enforcement. Let’s explore more about what can happen if a fire and ice person are in a pair.
Persons in the cool state and of the ice style of communication may take quite a long time to boil. They tend to try to avoid conflict at all costs, sometimes minimizing disagreements and quarrels. When this style is a little bit more on the spectrum of cool avoidant they may purposefully not share details that they fear could lead to conflict. Often and ironically this can lead to conflict. They remain relatively externally cool during disagreements, but this doesn’t mean that they are not having emotional reactions on the inside. I have seen many people in this state be hooked up to an oximeter and their heart rates are cascading over the thresholds of 120. In any event, from the outside, the person appears calm and maybe even rigid in the way that they are not communicating. The fear with this conflict style is of course that important conversations don’t happen. Without talking about important issues they may miss chances for their partner to understand their needs and what is important to them. When this style of conflict communication exists alongside a fire type there may be misunderstandings where the fire person feels that the ice person is avoiding their feelings and doesn’t care.
Both the fire and ice communication styles will benefit from a conflict management plan. A plan for conflict implies that disagreements are not inherently a problem but aims at tackling issues in the relationship that can cause small issues to become much bigger. It also brings awareness about how emotions play into their disagreements and what to do so that there is a smaller likelihood that trigger topics spiral out of control.
In love and wellness,
Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
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