Have you ever wondered if there’s a general way of solving any conflict? Something like a Masterplan? Well, there isn’t! Defining a conflict can be a difficult and sensitive procedure, as every conflict is different and very complex. Analyzing a conflict and getting to its root is only one step on the way of finding a solution. You need to detect which conflict style the opposition is using, in order to use the right problem-solving strategies yourself. Learn more by reading this article.
The theory that people have one of five preferred conflict styles was posited by Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann in the 1970s. Similar to the way that communication styles can help you to identify how another person is communicating their concerns to you, these five styles will help you to understand why the other person might be acting the way they are during a conflict:
Competitive: These people like to win. They like to be in a position of power and will definitely take notice of who has the most authority in a conflict situation. They may decide to dig in on a position, even if they don’t yet have all the facts. This is a useful style when you have to get into action and make a decision when you know the decision you want to put in place is going to be unpopular. Be warned, however, that this style often results in hurt feelings and dissatisfaction in others, so it should be reserved for emergency or occasional situations.
Collaborative: This is the opposite style of competitive. In this style, you try to accommodate everyone’s point of view. You might be assertive, but you want everyone’s input because you believe it is important. When you have existing conflict in a group that has not been resolved, when the decision needs buy-in from everyone, or when the situation is very important, you can use this style.
Compromising: In this style, you go into the discussion expecting that every person involved will need to make compromises of some sort, including you. The attempt is made to find some aspects of the solution that will satisfy everyone in the party. This is a useful style when it is more important to have agreement and consensus on an issue than to hold on to your point of view. Or, you can use it when you have two equally strong opponents who seem to be deadlocked at this point of their discussion. This can be a time-intensive strategy as well, so it might not be the best choice if you have a tight deadline.
Accommodating: In this situation, you don’t give a lot of opposition to the other party. You are willing to make concessions in order to make the other person happy or give them what they want. You are cooperative rather than assertive. You use this style when the relationship with the other person is more important than getting a specific outcome.
Avoiding: When you use this style, you actually seek to avoid the conflict entirely. You might try to delegate it to another party or to avoid making a decision that you know might be unpopular. If it is appropriate to pass the conflict on to another party who has more information or is more invested in the outcome, then by all means, do so. However, this is more often than not going to be a bad choice in strategy. There are few situations in which avoiding conflict will actually be beneficial.