Conflict Handling Styles

Topics: Conflict, Want, Need Pages: 5 (1350 words) Published: February 18, 2013
Understanding Conflict Handling Styles
In a dispute, it's often easier to describe how others respond then to how we respond. Each of us has a predominant conflict style that we use to meet our own needs. By examining conflict styles and the consequences of those behaviors, we can gain a better understanding of the impact that our personal conflict style has on other people. With a better understanding, you then can make a conscious choice on how to respond to others in a conflict situation to help reduce work conflict and stress. Behavioral scientists Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann, who developed the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument, have identified five styles to responding to conflict—competition, collaboration, compromise, avoidance, and accommodation. No conflict style is inherently right or wrong, but one or more styles could be inappropriate for a given situation and the impact could result in a situation quickly spiraling out of control.

1. Competing
Value of own issue/goal: High
Value of relationship: Low
Goal: I win, you lose
People who consistently use a competitive style come across as aggressive, autocratic, confrontational, and intimidating. A competitive style is an attempt to gain power and pressure a change at the other person’s expense. A competitive style of managing conflict can be appropriate when you have to implement an unpopular decision, make a quick decision, the decision is vital in a crisis, or it is important to let others know how important an issue is to you – "standing up for your right." The biggest disadvantage of using this style is that relationships can be harmed beyond repair and may encourage other parties to use covert methods to get their needs met because conflict with these people are reduced to – "if you are not with me, you are against me."

2. Accommodating
Value of own issue/goal: Low
Value relationship: High
Goal: I lose, you win
By accommodating you set aside your own personal needs because you want to please others in order to keep the peace. The emphasis is on preserving the relationship. Smoothing or harmonizing can result in a false solution to a problem and can create feelings in a person that range from anger to pleasure. Accommodators are unassertive and cooperative and may play the role of a martyr, complainer, or saboteur. However, accommodation can be useful when one is wrong or when you want to minimize losses when you are going to lose anyway because it preserves relationships. If you use it all the time it can become competitive – "I am nicer than you are" – and may result in reduced creativity in conflict situations and increased power imbalances.

3. Avoiding
Value of own issue/goal: Low
Value of relationship: Low
Goal: I lose, you lose
Avoidance is characterized by deliberately ignoring or withdrawing from a conflict rather than facing it. This style may be perceived as not caring about your own issue or the issues of others. People who avoid the situation hope the problem will go away, resolve itself without their involvement, or think that others are ready to take the responsibility. There are situations where avoidance is appropriate such as when you need more time to think of how to respond, time constraints demand a delay, confrontation will hurt a working relationship, or there is little chance of satisfying your needs. However, avoidance can be destructive if the other person perceives that you don’t care enough to engage. By not dealing with the conflict, this style allows the conflict to simmer and heat up unnecessarily, resulting in anger or a negative outburst.

4. Compromising
Value of own issue/goal: Medium
Value of relationship: Medium
Goal: I win some, you win some
The compromising style demonstrates that you are willing to sacrifice some of your goals while persuading others to give up part of theirs – give a little, get a little. Compromising maintains the relationship and can take less time than...
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