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  • Writer's pictureTemara Willis

What is your conflict management style, and is it right for you?

How you naturally resolve conflict and what strategies you use depend on your conflict style. So by understanding the different types and recognising your tendencies, you'll see the benefit and problems of each approach. The different styles are

  • avoiding or withdrawing

  • accommodating

  • competing

  • compromising

  • collaborating

The first one we will explore is avoiding or withdrawing. Many people choose this approach because it is easier to pretend that something did not happen than have to deal with it. In addition, the fear and anxiety of not dealing with it may be less than the trouble created by actually addressing the matter.

So it's easy to think maybe if I do not address it or bring it up, it will just disappear. Unfortunately, what usually happens is that the anxiety, resentment, and tension continue to grow beneath the surface until, eventually, it comes out in some other destructive way. It is like a sickness that, when left untreated, gets worse and worse.

However, there are times when avoiding conflict may be more appropriate. So I'm not saying there aren't times to prevent it because there are times when the issue is genuinely trivial and can be let go of when more critical issues are present. You can come back to it later. Or it may not be a good time or place to confront a problem, or you may need time to think and collect information before addressing the matter. Withdrawing is also a good response when emotions are very high and you need time for people to calm down.

The other style is accommodating. Accommodating is giving in

to another person's point of view or suggestions without room for collaboration or expressing your needs and wants. The approach may lead to a quick resolution but can lead to long-term anger and resentment. The purpose of this style is to preserve the relationship, but long term, it only deteriorates the relationship itself.

So while there are times when accommodating is appropriate, such as when you need to buy yourself some time until you're in a better position to respond or when you've accepted that you are wrong, or when continued dispute would be detrimental to the relationship or the situation it hasn't to be noted that this isn't a sustainable long term plan if you want also to have your needs met.

The other style is competing. This is also known as standing your ground or forcing your position. You push your needs onto others over the needs of theirs. So, in other words, you're competing with others to get your point across and win. This can work in your favour, but once again, only in the short term. In the long term, it has destructive consequences as other people may feel resentment and anger towards you. And for the most part, people who use this method tend to be aggressive in their communication, which shows that they place little value on the future of the relationships since they're only focused on control and their desired outcome.

A consequence of the short-sighted competing style is the potential for employees to disengage, feeling resentment, quitting, and turnover going up.

While there may be times when competing or force is appropriate, such as when less forceful methods don't work or are ineffective, when you need to stand up for your rights, when a quick resolution is required and using force is justified, such as an emergency or situation, or to stop aggressive behaviour it is only to be used as a last resort and is an ineffective style long term.

The next style is compromising. This type of conflict style takes courage and consideration of the other person's needs. This is where people are willing and able to give and take to come to an agreement that will meet the needs of all those involved.

The downside to compromising is that each party may still not fully understand the other person's needs because their true goal is to meet their own needs. They may agree, but only because the deeper issues were not resolved. So lack of trust can still linger even after agreeing.

See, compromising is appropriate when the goals are of low or moderate importance, to reach temporary or quick agreements, or complex issues that do not actually work when collaborating or forcing.

The other style is collaboration. And this is the most challenging but effective method in which both parties are willing and open to genuinely considering each other's point of view in search of a win-win scenario.

To achieve this, both parties must communicate effectively, develop an understanding of each other, and disclose goals and ways to move forward together. Collaboration comes down to using creative solutions to resolve conflicts or problems without making any concessions. This is accomplished by establishing common goals. So collaboration is the best method for encouraging consensus and commitment from all parties and solving actual problems. It also helps reinforce mutual trust and respect and share responsibility for the outcome.

When people take the time to understand each other and have common goals, new ideas and innovative ways of dealing with situations may arise so that everyone can move forward confidently.

Adelaide Workplace Mediation offers conflict management training and coaching. Don't hesitate to contact us today to discuss how we can assist if this is an area of interest for you

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