Topic 4: Conflict Resolution Behaviours

In order to be able to effectively handle conflicts it is useful for people to understand better their own behaviour style in conflict situations and develop a balanced conflict behaviour. The psychologists Dr. Kenneth W. Thomas and Dr. Ralph H. Kilmann have developed a model that describes human behaviour in conflicts along two dimensions: “(1) assertiveness, the extent to which the person attempts to satisfy his own concerns, and (2) cooperativeness, the extent to which the person attempts to satisfy the other person’s concerns.  ” These two dimensions are used to describe 5 different modes of human behaviour in conflict situations.

Source: Pixabay

  • “Competing is assertive and uncooperative—an individual pursues his own concerns at the other person’s expense. This is a power-oriented mode in which you use whatever power seems appropriate to win your own position—your ability to argue, your rank, or economic sanctions. Competing means “standing up for your rights,” defending a position which you believe is correct, or simply trying to win.
  • Accommodating is unassertive and cooperative—the complete opposite of competing. When accommodating, the individual neglects his own concerns to satisfy the concerns of the other person; there is an element of self-sacrifice in this mode. Accommodating might take the form of selfless generosity or charity, obeying another person’s order when you would prefer not to, or yielding to another’s point of view.
  • Avoiding is unassertive and uncooperative—the person neither pursues his own concerns nor those of the other individual. Thus, he does not deal with the conflict. Avoiding might take the form of diplomatically sidestepping an issue, postponing an issue until a better time, or simply withdrawing from a threatening situation.
  • Collaborating is both assertive and cooperative—the complete opposite of avoiding. Collaborating involves an attempt to work with others to find some solution that fully satisfies their concerns. It means digging into an issue to pinpoint the underlying needs and wants of the two individuals. Collaborating between two persons might take the form of exploring a disagreement to learn from each other’s insights or trying to find a creative solution to an interpersonal problem.
  • Compromising is moderate in both assertiveness and cooperativeness. The objective is to find some expedient, mutually acceptable solution that partially satisfies both parties. It falls intermediate between competing and accommodating. Compromising gives up more than competing but less than accommodating. Likewise, it addresses an issue more directly than avoiding, but does not explore it in as much depth as collaborating. In some situations, compromising might mean splitting the difference between the two positions, exchanging concessions, or seeking a quick middle-ground solution”.
  • People can use all five conflict-handling modes. But usually people tend to use one more than another. In order to develop one’s conflict resolution skills people should work on developing those behaviour styles that are not so well represented in them. It is good to monitor your behaviour and if you find out that for example you have a tendency to avoid conflict you should work on your assertiveness or collaboration skills (to learn how to find compromises and solutions.)