The Power of the Pause

We find a way to navigate through (or around) conflict most days until there is the one nagging situation that gets us undone or the one personality type that just sets us off. Sometimes only on the inside. You know, the conflict conversation in our head – on repeat.

Conflict is not easy to manage and there is no magic wand that we can wave to make it all go away. People interactions are dynamic, and situations evolve. There isn’t a simple 1, 2, 3 plan and all your conflict problems will be solved. Today let’s explore just one strategy you can try – pause before you respond.

It’s true many of us pause before we respond in conflict. However, what we do during the pause matters. If we engage in thoughts of how we are being wronged and play out the conflict conversation in our head that we wish we could have, we actually escalate the conflict.

What can we do in that pause that doesn’t add fuel to the flame? Conflict is telling us something. It is telling us that we need something we are not getting. The same is true for the other person.

Based on Myers Briggs theory of personality, there are four common preferences for approaching conflict. When we realize what is important to us and that it might be different than the other person, we can rewrite the mental activity of the “pause”. We can understand what we need and what might be important to the other person. Let’s explore the four styles:

The Analyzer Style

The Analyzer is quick to get to the “root” of the issue and assess alternatives for addressing the problem. They like to be “right” in their position – and they often are. Their genius is the ability to analyze the problem quickly and logically assess potential solutions. However, in their drive to solve the issue along with their apparent lack of emotional engagement others can perceive them as detached – or maybe even adversarial. They do feel a measure of emotion about the conflict, but they don’t see emotions as helpful in analyzing and solving the problem at hand.

The Investigator Style

The Investigator is typically unaware they are in conflict until the other person is triggered. Its because their goal in all things is to analyze issues from all the necessary angles. They are not in conflict, they are simply gathering information to analyze the issue. Their persistent questions – especially the “Why?” question can unintentionally put others on the defensive. Emotions and people dynamics are only relevant if they offer information that helps analyze the best approach to the problem.

The Mediator Style

The goal of the Mediator is to keep relationships in-tact. The issue is important but takes a back seat to ensuring that the relationship is okay at the end of the day. They bring people together, tactfully navigate the minefield of emotions in conflict, and seek common ground to move forward together. They seek of harmony, but when the relationship is at stake, they dive into the people issues to work it out. Growth and learning are key outcomes for conflict. They tend to ask reflective questions after conflict conversations. What did we learn in the process? How can the relationship grow deeper?

The Advocator Style

The Advocator is the first to notice conflict. They can walk into a room and notice the shift in the air without a word being spoken. While they notice conflict readily, they often are slow to engage it until their values are confronted – which is when they feel the need to rise up and give voice to the underdog. Their end-game is that everyone is heard, and all opinions respected. Feelings are addressed, and people are acknowledged. The conflict works itself out in the process.

While we may fluctuate between styles depending on the situation, we most often gravitate towards one of these four. Which do you gravitate toward? Which style tends to trigger you in conflict?

Change it up the next time you face conflict. Pause and think of a new strategy. Experiment with it and see what changes. It won’t all change at once – but step back after the fact and reflect on even the small change you notice. Decide what you might try next time. Then, when the next time comes – pause to remind yourself of what you were planning to try. Don’t simply default to your natural conflict style.

To download Dos and Don’ts with each conflict style, click HERE!


Annie Perdue Olson

Annie is founder of Leading Better Together, guiding leaders through the relationship and people challenges that sidetrack ministry. With 20+ years of experience in nonprofit management and pastoral ministry she equips people and teams to work better together. She holds a Master of Arts in Human Resources and Change Leadership from St. Thomas University and received her coaching certification from the Center for Coaching Excellence.

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