Are You a Tiger or Turtle?

June 1, 2017 by

Delaware relationship counselorThink of the last conflict you had with your partner. How did each of you approach the issue? Was one partner aggressive? Did one of you retreat and remain silent until the issue was brought to light? Did both partners act a certain way?

Imago classifies the way we approach a conflict in one of two ways: you are either a “Tiger” or a “Turtle.”

What Is a “Tiger?”

You may have already guessed what these terms are referring to. Tigers are more aggressive when approaching a conflict. They may seem forceful, and get upset if a partner is not appearing to participate in a discussion or solving the conflict. The tiger is more likely to yell or be expressive when they are communicating their feelings.

What Is a “Turtle?”

Turtles take a completely different approach. The turtle tends to focus inward in order to solve a problem. They may think that the conflict will be solved over time, or that they can solve the problem independently. Turtles may feel uncomfortable or caught off-guard if they are approached by a “tiger” personality.

Ask yourself: are you a tiger or a turtle? Is your spouse a tiger or a turtle?

Knowing Your Personality Can Help You Solve a Conflict

Recognizing how you and your spouse approach conflict will help you approach your next one more effectively.

You may have to adjust the way you initiate the conversation:

For tigers with a turtle partner, you may want to approach a conflict by saying, “I would like to talk to you about something that is on my mind. Is this a good time to talk?” or “I noticed that you seem a little stressed. Is there something you would like to talk to me about?”

These questions give a turtle time to collect their thoughts, while communicating that they would like to address the issue and find a couple’s answer together.

For a turtle with a tiger partner, recognizing a conflict and initiating the conversation may be the hardest part. The key to talking to a tiger is to be honest with your intentions. A turtle may tell their tiger, “I am currently working through some emotions regarding ‘x.’ I need some time to process what I am feeling, but I will come to you when I am ready.”

This tells the tiger, whose immediate desire may be to work through the conflict then and there, that the conflict will be addressed at a later time.

Want to learn more about how to approach a conflict with intentional dialogue? Reach out to a Delaware relationship counselor.


Walt Ciecko, Ph. D., BCB
1301 North Harrison Street, Suite 101
Wilmington, DE 19806
302-429-0195 Ext 1