Styles of Conflict

Posted on: June 22, 2008

There are many ways to respond to conflict situations. Some styles require great courage while other styles require great consideration for the other party. Some styles are cooperative, others competitive, and still others are quite passive. Here are five options you might consider:

Withdraw: No Way: Avoid the conflict by pretending that it doesn’t exist, minimize the differences between you, or refrain from engaging in what seems to be an inevitable argument. Examples of withdrawing include stonewalling, pretending that there is nothing wrong, and shutting down. Withdrawing requires no courage and no consideration for your partner.

Give In: Your Way: Accommodate your partner by accepting her/his point of view or suggestion. Make peace to get past this sticking point. Allow the other to have his/her way. Be gracious and roll with the punches. Giving in requires high cooperation and low courage. Over time, it’s likely that the accommodator becomes resentful of the other party.

Stand Your Ground: My Way: Compete with the other party and ensure that you win the argument. Argue your point and do not concede any points. Fight to the finish if you must. Competitve approaches to conflict yield quick short term gains but the long term effects are great. Standing your ground requires courage but little consideration. You may win the battle, but you’re likely to lose the relationship.

Compromise: Half Way: Find a middle ground in which you both give up some ground to allow both parties to be partially satisfied. Negotiate and give in on small points in other to win the bigger battle. Looking for a common ground requires both courage and consideration. This seems good unless compromisers use guile and passive aggressive tactics to out-fox the other party.

Collaborate: Our Way: Talk and listen to the other party. Discuss and clarify your goals and areas of agreement. Ensure that other parties understand and acknowledge each other’s positions. Consider ways to resolve the problem without any concessions. Think “outside the box.” Collaboration requires great courage as well as much consideration. Collaborators are generally interpersonally intelligent and are well respected and admired.

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Carlos Todd, LPC


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