Seeing Red

Seeing Red

“I can’t believe anyone would start with assertiveness [red] in conflict!” My very people-motivated (blue) friend sat in the corner with his mouth open in disbelief as he looked over the conflict styles of teammates in the room. “For me to be assertive in conflict means that I’ve given up on a harmonious response. And I assume anyone being that way with me doesn’t care about my perspective or feelings.”

Something similar could have been said by his process-oriented (green) teammate sitting beside him. She likes to step back and analyze the situation before jumping into the fray. The last thing she wants to do when challenged is to assert right away, and people who are quick to be direct make her feel uncomfortable. Assertiveness, to her, feels rushed, emotional, and just plain wrong.

And that’s why conflict in relationships can be so difficult to manage. Each of us has a conflict sequence—a pattern of responses in conflict. Our conflict sequences are based on shifts in our motivations that are like lenses through which we see and interpret behavior when we feel challenged. As conflict escalates, our responses become more rigid and self-protective. And as my friend discovered, the way others see the world and how they shift in conflict is much different from his own.

Relational breakdowns happen when we misinterpret the motivations and behaviors of others. In this scenario, an assertive response to conflict was simply an attempt to directly address an issue threatening the relationship. But it was misunderstood as an aggressive move that indicated lack of loving concern. What was offered as a solution that made sense to one person became an offense and trigger to two others.

Tragically, this is the story of relationships. Marriages, families, work teams, church congregations, and even political discourse are colored by the ravages of conflicts that escalated beyond Stage One into destructive Stage Two and Stage Three behavior. Many times, this conflict could have been solved earlier and more effectively if the parties involved had been aware of their own motivations and patterns in conflict.

The SDI assessment helps people get a clear picture of their motivational value system and identifies three different motivations by color—red for significance, blue for people, and green for process. These motivational values underlie the way each person uses behaviors and strengths. The SDI then charts how those motivations shift in conflict—when things get personal and our values feel threatened.

When we know how we change in conflict (and how those we interact with most do as well), then conflict becomes an opportunity to find mutually satisfying solutions that make us closer and more effective together.

So, how do you “see red”? Knowing your motivational value system and your conflict pattern will raise your relational intelligence and result in more satisfying, effective relationships at work and at home.

Del Fehsenfeld