Conflict exists everywhere. From the international stage to our everyday lives, everyone has to deal with conflict in one way or another.
And yet, everyone deals with conflict differently - some more effectively than others.
Reflecting on your approach to conflict can help you make changes and become more effective in conflict situations. Read on to learn about 5 different conflict styles, and think about which one matches you.
Avoiders feel uncomfortable in conflict situations and try to avoid it altogether. However, as anyone with an ounce of sense will tell you, avoiding the situation rarely solves the problem.
This is not the same as preventing conflict or resolving it at an early stage. Avoiding conflict refers to the common situation where the conflict isn't going away. In such a case, it is better to proactively engage with it than to let it grow and fester.
If you look at the graph above, you'll see conflict avoidance sits at the bottom left hand corner. In other words, avoiding conflict results in the lowest gain for both you and for others.
Accomodating or 'appeasement' bears many similarities to avoiding. Accomodating the other party essentially consists of making one-sided compromises to their benefit, without regard to your own interests. Although the total gain is greater than avoiding, it accrues purely to one side.
There may be some circumstances where this behaviour is more positively described as altruism, however this is rare in practice. More often, it is a result of poor conflict management skills or undervaluing one's own interests.
A competitive approach to conflict is one that seeks to maximise your own gain relative to the gain of the other side. Whether this works or not is likely to depend on the conflict style of the other side.
As you can see from the graph, the cumulative gain is likely to be equal to the cumulative gain achieved by an accomodating style.
A compromising approach is a simplistic approach to resolving differences in conflict. For example, two people are fighting over an orange. They decide to split the difference, and take half the orange each.
While this achieves a more equal distribution of the gain for each party, the cumulative gain for both parties is not much greater than it would be in a competitive vs accomodating approach.
Finally, there is the collaborative approach to conflict. In this style, parties seek to work together to maximise the cumulative gain they both achieve.
Using the example of the orange mentioned above, the two people might discuss why they actually need the orange, in order to work together towards a mutually beneficial solution.
Eventually, it transpires that one needs the peel for a cake, and the other wants the middle to eat. A collaborative approach means that one can have the entire peel, and one can have the entire middle, maximising the gain for everyone.
This may not work everytime, but at least it offers the potential to maximise the benefit.
What's Your Conflict Style?
You can learn more about conflict management, the theory of conflict and mediation by exploring the Mediator Academy video Master Class Library.