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Understanding Team Relationships & Myers-Briggs Conflict Pairs

Understanding Team Relationships & Myers-Briggs Conflict Pairs

Written by Pamela Valencia, Solutions Consultant, CPP Professional Services

(If you didn’t get a chance, read Part I of this post or Part II of this post to get the full picture.)


The Role of Conflict Pairs

In their research, Damian Killen and Danica Murphy determined that where people focus their attention in conflict and how they respond to conflict are best represented by the last two letters in their four-letter personality type code—their “conflict pair.” There are four different conflict pairs: TP, TJ, FP, and FJ. In our example team (see graphic below), only two of the conflict pairs are represented: TJ and FJ.

Team Type

Our conflict pair provides insight into what likely causes conflict for us, our desired outcome, how we tend to deal with our emotions during conflict, and what we see as a successful outcome. For people with the conflict pair TJ, challenges to/of authority can propel them into a conflict situation. Such challenges can take many forms and may be interpreted as disrespecting their authority. TJs need closure and tend to deny their emotions to the point that they burst out, causing them to quickly shift from easygoing to intense and seemingly angry. They tend to be aggressive in their approach but want a way forward. Once closure is achieved, they can walk away from the conflict situation satisfied. 


For people who have the conflict pair FJ, conflict is not easy because their ultimate desired outcome is intact relationships. They react when there is a challenge to/of beliefs. When dealing with conflict, FJs want to include emotions as part of the dialogue. They seek communication and harmony and pick up on conflict easily, striving to make sure that there’s no lingering bitterness.


I was recently in a conflict situation with a person whose type preferences are ISTJ. When I was unable to fulfill a request for ethical reasons, the request came back as a directive. I recognized this aggressive tactic as one commonly associated with the TJ conflict pair. (Keep in mind that not all TJs manifest this conflict behavior because as we become more self-aware, we can choose our behavior instead of simply reacting in the most comfortable way.) Understanding this conflict pair response helped me not personalize the conflict and instead enabled me to step out and recognize the situation for what it was. Once the situation was resolved to mutual benefit (and ethical compliance), agreeableness was restored to the relationship.


According to Killen and Murphy, most people see conflict as any interaction that has a negative emotional charge. It tends to exist due to a core element of trust, beliefs, authority, or passion being challenged. Understanding and applying what we know about personality preferences and conflict pairs gives us an unparalleled advantage when it comes to defusing conflict situations and building stronger relationships.


This blog is part of a series on Relationships, Connections & Conflict. Read the next post in the series: Behavioral Clues to Myers-Briggs Personality Types.


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