Each of us naturally handles conflict in a way that we’re comfortable. Our upbringing, personality, experiences, and relationships influence our conflict style. In order to change the climate of a group we need an awareness of how we typically handle conflict.
Here’s a quick assessment that will help you evaluate your conflict style.
Read the statement below and put the name of a peer in the blank. It could be your spouse, a coworker, or a friend, but it’s important to have a specific person in mind. After choosing a name, read the statements below and pick the statement that best describes how you handle conflict with that person.
When I have a disagreement with __________ I tend to…
- avoid confrontation and conflict as much as possible. I might avoid phone calls, change my plans to not be around this person or make excuses for why I can’t continue my normal routine if they are a part of it.
- accommodate the other person and allow them to get their way because I want them to be happy. I will even take on more work myself/make myself uncomfortable in order to make them happy.
- get the other person to see things my way. I help the other person understand that my view is the right and I often persist until they agree.
- compromise so that the other person will get some of what they want as long as I get some of what I want.
For most of my childhood and early adult life I feared conflict and felt successful if I avoided it. The thought of inconveniencing or offending anyone motivated me to keep people happy so I steered clear of conflict. It shouldn’t surprise you then that my predominant conflict style was avoidance, which is also your conflict style if you choose A. If you choose B then you’re an Accommodator. If you picked C then your style is Competitor and if you picked D then your style is Compromiser.
None of these ways of handling conflict are bad, but depending on your relationship with the person and the task at hand, there might be a most effective style to use. Knowing all the styles and assessing when to use a style is an important part of handling conflict effectively. It’s entirely probable that if you put a parent or boss’ name in the blank you might choose a different conflict style. The same will also probably be true if you put your child or an employee’s name in the blank. We naturally assess our relationship with the person and the importance of the task at hand when we handle conflict, but we can be even more effective when we have the right tools.
Check back over the next couple of weeks to read about your specific style and other conflict styles to continue filling your toolbox with skills to communicate and handle conflict effectively.