5 Conflict Management Styles and When to Use Them

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Everywhere I turn these days, it seems as though too many people have forgotten how to manage disagreements in a respectful way – especially online.

Sadly, those disagreements end up turning into heated conversations, which is why developing effective conflict management skills is absolutely vital to maintain and build professional and personal relationships.

Before we get into that, however, let’s discuss the difference between “Conflict” and “Conflict Management.”

  • Conflict is the struggle between two or more people with  opposing needs, ideas, beliefs, values or goals.
  • Conflict Management  is a learned skill for how to approach and resolve conflict through self-awareness, active listening, inquiring questions, healthy communication, and an open-minded attitude.

We all manage conflict in different ways.  Our default conflict response tends to be ingrained in us from early childhood – and it may or may not serve us well today.  Common conflict responses range somewhere between very assertive and very cooperative to very unassertive and very uncooperative.  Each of those conflict management styles can be described with the following terms (taken from the Thomas-Killmann Conflict Mode assessment, in no particular order):

  1. Competitive  – Both Assertive and Uncooperative
  2. Collaborating – Both Assertive and Cooperative
  3. Compromising – Between Assertive and Cooperative
  4. Avoiding – Both Unassertive and Uncooperative
  5. Accommodating – Both Unassertive and Cooperative

What may be surprising to you is that ALL five of those styles can useful depending on what is important to you with regards to the situation in which you are experiencing conflict. For example:

  • “Two heads are better than one” (COLLABORATING)
  • “Kill your enemies with kindness” (ACCOMMODATING)
  • “Split the difference” (COMPROMISING)
  • “Leave me/it well enough alone” (AVOIDING)
  • “Might makes right” (COMPETING)

To determine which style would serve you best in a given circumstance, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. How invested in the relationship are you?
  2. How important is the issue to you?
  3. Do you have energy to address the conflict?
  4. Are you aware of potential consequences?
  5. Are you willing to deal with the consequences?
  6. What are the consequences of NOT engaging in the conflict?

Your answers to those questions should help you determine which style is best in that moment.  To illustrate my point, consider this:

If you are invested in the relationship but the issue is not really important to you, you could consider collaborating or accommodating.

If you aren’t invested in the relationship and the issue is really important to you, the best response may be collaborating or competing.

If you don’t have the energy to address the conflict at that moment and you are not willing to deal with the consequences of what the other person wants, it may be best to avoid addressing it until you have the energy to deal with the conflict (FYI – avoiding is not sticking your head in the sand and ignoring the conflict, but rather voicing a request to delay your response until a later time).

See how that works?

May I suggest you print out this article (Click on the printer icon on the top right of this post), circle those six questions and carry it with you over the next few weeks to use as a reference when you experience conflict in your personal and professional life.

I’d love to hear your comments on how you choose your conflict response in any given situation.  Please share them below in the comments section….and please use the Social Media share buttons to pass this article onto others you know who could benefit from it.

If I can be of service to you in any way with regards to improving your conflict management skills, please contact me at 404-551-3601.

Have a great day!  ~Kris

PS – I always love referrals, so if you know of a business owner or executive who isn’t “playing well with others” and wants to get better at it, please have them schedule a complimentary Coffee & Conversation meeting here:   http://BeginToShift.com/Make-The-Shift .

Article Image by Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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