Before I get into the topic, I just had to say how much this photo makes me smile! In one of my more recent posts, I discussed how to have conversations with difficult people. This post is a follow-up to help better understand conflict management styles with different people and in different situations. Getting involved in a disagreement with family and friends, at work or school, is unavoidable. At some point, they can get intense.
There are different ways to handle conflict, and it’s important to get to know yourself and your go-to approach to dealing with it. It’s also a good idea to get to know other people’s styles as well because it can help you become more effective at working through conflict with others.
If you break down most conflicts, there are two opposing factors:
- Assertiveness: The degree that each person wants to satisfy his or her concerns.
- Cooperation: The degree that each wants to satisfy the other’s concerns.
The way we manage disagreements with others should help us achieve the outcome we are looking for; how much do we want to meet our concerns versus the other person’s concerns.
Kenneth W. Thomas and Ralph H. Kilmann developed a widely adopted concept that there are five main styles people use to manage conflict.
Five conflict management styles
The Avoider – I lose, and you win.
The Avoider is a person who tries to escape confrontation at all costs; it’s a non-assertive and uncooperative style. This approach is the most common method of conflict management.
Positive: This style can come in handy sometimes because you can’t, and shouldn’t fight every battle that comes up. You should choose which ones are worth your time and energy. Also, if you find that in your personal or professional life, you come up against a lot of conflicts, you will need relief so stepping back is sometimes necessary.
Negative: Problems don’t get addressed or resolved, and feelings get suppressed.
The Competitor – I win, and you lose.
The Competitor is a person who is aggressive in a confrontation. They sometimes attack and intimidate others to get their way; it’s a highly assertive and uncooperative style. Competition, dominance and power plays are used to win.
Positive: This style can be useful when quick and decisive action is essential.
Negative: You will win the battle, but you may lose the war. You may also lose the respect of others because this method doesn’t take their needs or feelings into consideration.
The Accommodator – I lose, and you win.
The Accommodator is someone who values the relationship with other people much more than the achievement of their goals. This style is a bit more assertive and cooperative than The Avoider because Accommodators value their ideas, but also place the other’s welfare above his or her own. This person adjusts their needs in the spirit of self-sacrifice.
Positive: With this style, you can preserve the relationship and maintain a sense of cooperation.
Negative: Eventually, continually putting other people’s needs ahead of your own may result in repressed feelings of anger that can bubble over.
The Compromiser – I win, and you win.
The Compromiser is a person who negotiates. It’s an assertive and cooperative style. The key is to find a middle ground that works for everyone involved to help avoid confrontation.
Positive: With this style, everyone gets a little bit of what they wanted, so it’s useful for achieving temporary settlements on complex issues.
Negative: Compromising may not always produce the best solution.
The Collaborator – I win, and you win.
The Collaborator believes in each person working toward compromise. It’s an assertive and cooperative style. The different between a Collaborator and Compromiser is that a Collaborator likes confrontation but also value the concerns of others. Collaboration is used to satisfy the concerns of everyone involved and to find a mutually beneficial outcome.
Positive: With this style, everyone wins, and you strengthen relationships.
Negative: Collaborating can be time-consuming to come to a solution that works for everyone and effectively solves the problem. It’s sometimes impractical, especially with smaller, less complex problems.
Keep in mind that there are many ways to manage conflict. None of these styles is appropriate in all situations. For instance, there may be times when it’s best to sacrifice your immediate goals and place a higher priority on the other person’s, thereby using the Accommodator style. At other times, a crucial decision must be made immediately with no chance of the various parties reaching an agreement, calling for the Competitor approach to reach a solution.
I’m mostly the Compromiser or Collaborator. I have to get better at mixing up my styles depending on the situation. I have to work harder to be a Competitor (although I’m competitive by nature) because other people’s feelings are always on my mind.
What style do you use more often, or do you stick to just one? If you’re not sure, test it out. Practice having different types of disagreements with someone and see which style you use most often.
Inspired by the daily prompt: oversight