5 Things to Know About Conflict Styles

Understanding your conflict style and adjusting it to each situation is so important in managing workplace conflict. So, what’s your conflict style preference? Are you:

Competing, someone who likes to argue and debate? Competing often means defending a position you believe is correct, or simply trying to win.

Accommodating, someone who is unassertive and cooperative, often yielding to another’s point of view or even giving in when you believe your ideas are better? Accommodating is the complete opposite of competing.

Avoiding, someone who is unassertive and uncooperative neither pursuing your concerns or others?  Avoiding doesn’t commit and is unsure where h/she stands on issues.  

Compromising, someone who is moderate in both assertiveness and cooperativeness, looking to fine an expedient, mutually acceptable solution that partially satisfies both parties? Compromising is intimidated by direct confrontation and looks to gain consensus or seek a quick middle-ground solution.

Collaborating, someone who is both assertive and cooperative and takes a win-win approach to find a solution that fully satisfies both? Collaborating understands the value of positive conflict and often acts as a mediator. 

Each of us is capable of using all five conflict-handling modes and no one uses a single style of dealing with conflict. Understanding your own preferred conflict style and the preferred conflict style of others, helps us take conflict less personally and creatively resolve workplace disputes. Once you understand the preferred style of others, you can use these ideas to work successfully with a person using a particular conflict style or mode:

Allow the competing style time to vent.  Be gracious while doing your best to discover what they fear.  Use reflecting listening skills and don’t forget that humor may go a long way in getting a competing person to relax and then be able to resolve the conflict.

Be direct and patient with the avoiding style while you work to understand their position.  Be supportive and allow that person to feel as if they can confront you with their issue.

Active listening is effective with the compromising style as you work to create a supportive environment where the person will feel comfortable.  Describe the impact of their behavior on the situation and allow them to feel as if they can confront you with the issue.

Try to get the accommodating style to open up about their feelings and fears.  Monitor their energy level since they are susceptible to burnout.  Solicit their input and feedback since probably won’t offer it willingly.

Watch and learn from the collaborating style in order to enhance your own abilities to deal with conflict. This way you won’t always depend on them in conflict situations since they are skilled at resolving whatever comes up.  

April is Workplace Conflict Awareness Month, but let’s keep this awareness going. Having workplaces filled with creativity and respect is essential for organizational success. Spread the word, share our posts, and we’d be honored if you recommended our books The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook and The Conflict Resolution Phrase Book to your colleagues and friends and on Amazon.  

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