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Understanding Responses to Conflict: Fight, Flight, Posture, and Submission

Updated: Jan 9

Conflict is an inevitable part of human interaction, and how individuals respond to it varies widely. The reactions to conflict often fall into four primary categories: fight, flight, posture, and submission. Each response manifests differently and plays a significant role in shaping the outcome of the conflict.

Understanding Responses to Conflict: Fight, Flight, Posture, and Submission
Understanding Responses to Conflict: Fight, Flight, Posture, and Submission

Fight Response:


The fight response involves confronting the conflict head-on with a desire to overcome or resolve it directly. This reaction often involves assertiveness, aggression, or a proactive stance to address the issue.


Individuals opting for the fight response might express their opinions firmly, stand their ground, or take action to resolve the conflict through dialogue or negotiation. The fight response is the option when you are devoid of choice.


Flight Response:


In contrast, the flight response involves avoiding or escaping the conflict situation altogether. Individuals exhibiting this response tend to withdraw, evade confrontation, or physically remove themselves from the conflict. Flight responders might seek solitude, avoid discussions, or leave the situation entirely to minimize confrontation and discomfort.


Posture Response:


Posture response involves a display of assertive body language or verbal cues without engaging in physical conflict. This response aims to assert control or dominance without resorting to aggression. Individuals adopting the posture response might display confident body language, use assertive speech, or position themselves to convey strength or authority. Posturing is a very dangerous response if you do not know who you are dealing with or if you lack critical self defense skills.


Submission Response:


The submission response involves yielding or acquiescing to the conflict without putting up resistance. Individuals adopting this response tend to comply or give in to the demands or opinions of the opposing party to defuse the conflict. This response aims to avoid further escalation by conceding or accepting the situation.


Feign Submission Response:


Feigning submission is a tactic wherein an individual pretends to yield or acquiesce to an opponent's demands or dominance in a conflict situation, while internally maintaining a different intention or plan. This strategic response aims to deceive or mislead the opponent, creating a false sense of compliance or vulnerability.


Understanding these responses to conflict helps individuals navigate challenging situations more effectively. Moreover, recognizing these reactions in oneself and others enables a better understanding of the dynamics at play during conflicts.


Each response has its benefits and drawbacks depending on the specific situation. While the fight response might lead to resolution, it can also escalate tensions. Flight might provide temporary relief but can hinder conflict resolution. The posture response may assert control but risks being misinterpreted, and submission might maintain peace but can lead to personal dissatisfaction.


Effective conflict resolution often involves a balanced approach, considering the nuances of each response and adapting as per the context. Cultivating self-awareness, empathy, and effective communication skills enables individuals to choose responses conducive to resolving conflicts constructively while preserving relationships and personal well-being.


Violence Prevention and Self Defense Resources

The Center for Violence Prevention and Self Defense is a non profit 501(C)(3) with a mission to stop violence by educating at-risk people and empower them with the skills needed to protect themselves by providing online and live training. 


Through workshops and seminars we educate participants about violence prevention and guide them on assessing risk factors while establishing boundaries in relationships. Additionally practical self defense classes equip people with hands on skills and effective strategies to prevent and intervene in cases of assault.

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