Whether you're a ‘shark,' ‘teddy bear' or ‘fox,' here's how to ease conflict with family and friends

People have different conflict management styles, from "sharks" to "teddy bears" and "foxes" and "owls."

Whether you're a ‘shark,' ‘teddy bear' or ‘fox,' here's how to ease conflict with family and friends

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Families and close friendships can bring joy, but they also come with conflict, betrayal and regret. Prince Harry's memoir, "Spare," is a reminder that those closest to us often have most power to hurt us. He describes power struggles and conflict, difficult family dynamics, and decades of guilt and jealousy.

It can be difficult to solve this type of conflict. It can be difficult to get past this kind of conflict. Sometimes, it just isn't possible to resolve the issue. Psychology has provided us with more information about how to resolve close relationships.

It is hard to avoid causing pain, upset, or conflict in our lives. It's a part of our lives and it's better to learn how to deal with it than try and avoid it. Understanding the causes of relationship conflict and the various approaches people take to it is the first step.

Judy Makinen and Susan Johnson, Canadian psychologists, used the term "attachment injuries" to describe the types of wounds that can be inflicted by the perception that we are being abandoned, betrayed, or mistreated.

These wounds are so painful because they make us question the safety, dependability and loyalty of those around us. These wounds can trigger many emotional and behavioral reactions, including anger, resentment and fear, avoidance, and reluctance of forgiveness. These behaviors are part of our self-protection system and are rooted in our personality and personal histories.

The pain can stay with us for years, influencing our lives from the shadows. What have psychologists discovered about the healing process, how to move past hurt and how to learn from it?

Sharks, turtles, teddy bears (foxes, owls), sharks

Many studies have been conducted on conflict resolution. David W. Johnson, a social psychologist, studied conflict management styles in humans and created a model of how we might respond to conflict.

He suggested that conflict resolution strategies and our responses tend to be based on our goals (our goals), and the goals of others (their goals and preservation).

Johnson identified five major styles or approaches for this balancing act.

"Turtles" withdraw from a relationship, abandoning their goals and the relationship. This results in unresolved, frozen conflict.

"Sharks" are aggressive and forceful, and will protect their goals at any cost. They are known to be aggressive, intimidating and overwhelming during conflicts.

"Teddy bears" are there to help keep peace and make things easier. They abandon their goals. They will sacrifice their own goals for the sake and good of the relationship.

They see concessions as the best solution and are open to making sacrifices on both sides.

The 'Owls view conflict as a problem that must be solved. They will work with both sides to find solutions that meet their needs and keep the relationship alive. This can take a lot of time and effort. The struggle is not easy for owls.

Research suggests that conflict resolution styles may be related to attachment history and personality. People who have had their attachment experiences in their early years may be more inclined to adopt conflict management styles that minimize their needs, such as the teddy bear.

Psychologists have suggested that conflict management styles can be altered in long-term relationships, but they do not change significantly. So, although a teddy bear might have conflict management traits that are similar to other styles, it is highly unlikely that they will become a shark.

Psychologists Richard Mackey and Matthew Diemer argued that conflict is inevitable in all relationships. Their research showed that the length of a relationship greatly depends on how it is handled. The best relationships, which last the longest, are those where conflict is accepted and managed constructively by both partners.

Although a relationship between sharks may be long-lasting, it is less likely that it will be harmonious than a relationship between owls.


Forgiveness is often seen as the ultimate goal of relationship conflict. Forgiveness is defined by Jungian analysts Joseph Lee, Deborah Stewart, and Lisa Marchiano as being able to hold in our hearts the severity of the injury and the humanity and humanity of the inflicted. It can feel like we are trying to minimize our suffering by forgiving others.

The Forgiveness Project was founded by Masi Noor, a psychologist, and Marina Cantacuzino, a resource that helps people to overcome grievances. These tools or skills are essential to help us forgive.

These include accepting that all people are flawed, including ourselves, and allowing others to suffer more.

Mark Twain said it best: "Forgiveness is that fragrance that violet sheds on the heel which has crushed it."

Sam Carr is a lecturer on education at the Centre for Death and Society, University of Bath in England. Carr is not affiliated with any company or organization, nor has he been paid to consult for, own shares in, or receive funding from them.