In my blog post, The Conflict Doctor is In, I noted that avoidance is a common default approach for people in dispute.  I also noted that avoiding conflict often allows disputes to grow out of control so that something that begins as a simple misunderstanding becomes a raging war.  Avoidance may be a default approach to dealing with conflict but it is not the only approach.  (Click on the title for more) . . .

Mediators and other conflict specialists generally identify five ways of responding to conflict.  These include Avoiding, Competing, Accommodating, Compromising, and Collaborating.  People in a dispute might use one, some, or all of these approaches.  Which approach they choose to use can depend on a number of factors.  For example, the subject of the dispute, who the dispute involves, and what the outcome means to them will significantly impact how the dispute evolves.  Each approach – even avoiding – has its usefulness.  Being aware of the various approaches to dispute resolution can provide you with a number of advantages.

First, it is helpful to be aware of how you approach conflicts.  Although your approach to conflict can vary depending on the circumstances, your personality and upbringing can influence which style you tend to use.  Knowing your conflict style allows you to make informed choices about what to do when you are involved in a specific dispute.  Second, knowing the styles allows you to be aware of how the other person is responding to a dispute.  This information allows you to understand what the dispute means to the other person and affords you the opportunity to modify your approach, increasing the chances that a dispute can be resolved to your satisfaction.  Finally, knowing that there are various approaches and knowing how they function helps you to make suggestions to the people who are in dispute with you that might help you to agree on an approach that better suits the needs and interests of everyone involved

In future blog posts I will address each style individually.  I will discuss the definition of each style, and I will describe when and how each style can be used.  In the meanwhile, think about the most recent dispute you experienced and how you approached it.  Did you avoid it? Were you accommodating?  Did your competitive streak take over or did you compromise?  Were you able to collaborate with the other person to resolve the dispute?  Why did you choose the response that you did?  Is that your default style?  How did that approach work out for you?

I would love to hear about how you approach conflict and what has worked for you, so add your comments.  If you have specific questions, feel free to post those too.  You can tell me whether you don’t want me to use your name.  I can incorporate your questions and comments into future blogs.  I look forward to hearing from you!