What Your Communication Style Says About How You Disagree
You gotta be willing to look inward and see that how you talk is more nuanced than you think, especially when you disagree with someone.
As Daniel Goleman coined in 1995 through his book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ, the amygdala (the portion of the brain used to regulate our fight-and-flight response patterns) can become “hijacked.”
This occurs because we feel threatened. When conflict arises, we unconsciously think we need to fight or avoid the problem altogether (flight). The intense emotions disagreements stir, as Goleman states, “[M]ake us pay attention right now… and gives us an immediate action plan without having to think twice.” Diane Musho Hamilton, an author, mediator, and teacher of Zen, puts it another way: “In the throes of amygdala hijack, we can’t choose how we want to react because the old protective mechanism in the nervous system does it for us — even before we glimpse that there could be a choice” (2016). That’s a person’s psychological defensive system at work.
This unconscious reaction, which people exhibit during conflict, creates a triggered communication pattern based on one of four responses: fight, flight, freeze, or fawn.
Most people are aware of fight and flight responses, but few may know about the freeze or fawn responses. Fight defends, flight avoids, freeze indicates inaction, and fawn wants to people-please. For each type of communication response, a person will manifest a corresponding communication style based on two variables: how likely they are to listen versus how likely they are to speak up. This chart gives an overview of the different styles and how they overlap.
When disagreement stirs a person’s psychological defense system, their communication style will become their de facto way of listening and speaking up:
The fighter: Headstrong and fiery, fighters go after what they want even if it is…