Different Styles in Handling Conflict

situation analysis, One of the key areas I focus on working with my coaching clients is how they face conflict. Amazingly there isn’t a need to broach the topic; it comes up naturally in conversation. Interpersonal conflict is a major source of stress we take on, not to mention an indicator of how confident and satisfied people feel in their lives. People develop a style based on their personality proclivities as to how they interact with interpersonal conflict. Every situation and personal interaction is different, but many of us develop definite patterns in handling conflict. Becoming aware of your own style, as well as the other party involved in the conflict is valuable to have in your arsenal in order to determine how to resolve the critical conflict situation.

I like to follow the Thomas Kilmann Model to guide my orientation. The two dimensions of the 5 mode (styles) model assess a person’s style based on the degree of their assertiveness as well as cooperativeness.

* High assertive, low cooperative – Competitive
* High assertive, high cooperative – Collaborative
* Low assertive, high cooperative – Accommodating
* Low assertive, low cooperative – Avoiding
* Intermediate assertive, intermediate cooperative – Compromising

You can see the natural traps that keep conflict alive between two styles such as between a competitor and an accommodator. The pattern of use of a single style as the way of communicating to others will likely lead the accommodator to resent the competitor who doesn’t recognize their contributions. A competitor’s natural style can be oblivious to the impact of their words and actions on others. They have a high expectation of assertiveness for themselves and others; accommodators may not always measure up to that standard. Unmet needs are abound.

Avoiders can exert as much control over the actions of others in a conflict as the competitors. Chasing after the avoider who has separated themselves from the conflict can be a futile act, unless the collaborator can find leverage to engage them back into the game. Is it rational to expect others to be aware of the opposition’s style? It’d be nice, but if not rational, take on the responsibility to observe and assess the opposing style yourself and react accordingly.

One should develop skill in using each style and a capacity to shift among them as the situation demands. Most of us will tend to use a certain style-sometimes strongly so-and to under-represent others in our tool-box of skills. What that means is that there will likely be times when we find ourselves in a conflict and we approach in an almost automatic way. Using a style that for some reason has become almost habit can lead us to realize that our approach did not help us to get where we wanted to go. While that can certainly happen to anyone, it is less likely if we can carefully analyze the situation facing us and skillfully use the style most suited to the situation and other party.

Debra Desmond is a certified executive coach, frequent public speaker and professional facilitator. She is the founder of Real Perspective Coaching. Executives who have worked with Debra solved problems by strengthening their emotional intelligence competencies, built and repaired relationships, established priorities, dealt with burnout, made career transitions, and achieved their most sought after goals.

Debra has extensive experience in Human Resource management roles. Her long standing career in executive search within healthcare and the petroluem industries fine-tuned her client orientation, relationship building expertise.