How do you handle conflict?

images (2)Conflict is part of our daily routine.  We live in a highly individualistic society, where strong personalities share views and opinions that often collide and generate debates, as each individual pursues to get the best possible outcome from any situation. The right to freedom of speech and expression allows us to complain, discuss, negotiate, and sometimes fight, in order to carry our point and to alter other behaviours and perspectives.

But how do people react to conflict?  Which are the most common conflict resolution approaches?

There are five dimensions that I am going to focus on and shortly describe to help you identify yourself with one or another:

  • Competing/forcing: At some point, we all come across individuals who tend to imagesimpose their points of view and always get their way, allowing no room for negotiation. This dimension is mostly common among men as it involves a sense of authority and rigidity, and it is quite difficult to handle or work with, especially at the workplace, where flexibility is essential.
  • images (1)Avoiding: Some people tend to avoid conflict, and theorists often link this dimension to women, as they are stereotyped as weaker, less opinionated and diplomatic, but  in my view, this is not an issue of genre; it depends more on cultural background, education and personality. Avoiding confrontation can become as harmful as forcing a point of view, as lack of communication does not solve a conflict: on the contrary, it aggravates it.
  • Compromising: This is a flexible approach where conflict_resolution250Wboth parties reach an agreement quickly and it can be extremely effective at the workplace, when there is no time to negotiate and debate, so finding the middle way is the most appropriate strategy.
  • Accommodating: Trying not to upset the other person. This approach is often encountered among individuals who dislike conflict and would rather give up their own opinions and beliefs in order to avoid confrontation and a possible fight. At the workplace, they enjoy a peaceful atmosphere and they like building close relationships with their co-workers, but in the long term, this approach could lead to internal conflict.
  • resolving_conflictCollaborating: Solving the problem together it’s the most appropriate, but at the same time, challenging dimension. In my view, it requires a great deal of positivity from both sides, which is often hard to find in stressful situations. The “let’s sit down and see how we can solve this issue” approach is an ideal as it often leads to progress, and this is the reason why conflict should exist: to identify, discuss, fix problems and move on.

Which dimension do you belong to? Do you switch styles depending on the situation?



13 thoughts on “How do you handle conflict?

  1. Interesting questions…. I don’t know if I have a defined style of responding to conflict, I think it depends on my mood. Sometimes I fight and I am pretty “competing”, while there are situations when I can’t be bothered and I prefer to shut up. It depends on my mood, on the circumstances, and to what extent that issue interests me. Overall, if I had to choose one characteristic, I think it would be the “compromising” one. It;s quick and effective.

    • Hey, Dan! Thanks for your comment! I guess that for many of us it is a matter of what mood are we in when having to face an argument/conflict… as long as we don’t become agressive and adopt a competing style…we’re safe and we can move forward 🙂

  2. I would choose the collaborating style as it seems the most sensible and it could really lead to progress. Unfortunately, I am not patient enough to be consistent and use it all the time; there are situations when I can get quite accomodating, just to escape from an uncomfortable situation. So, to answer your question I think that I switch styles depending on circumstances, but I could never take a competing approach as it does not reflect my personality.

    • Hey there! Thanks for your response and for your honesty! What do you think about the compromising dimension though? how useful do you see it compared to the collaborating style?

      • I think both of them could work. However, I see the compromising one a bit rushed, so there might be cases when it’s not recommended to use it. The positive side is that, in both situations, the truth is somewhere in the middle… so negotiation is the best solution !

  3. I think I am more of a complex mixture. It depends very much on the situation and on my interests. If the outcome won’t affect me too much I tend to avoid a conflict, but if my interests are very important I try to collaborate. Very rarely I impose what I want…

    • Hey, Emily! Thanks for commenting. That’s true… many times we get far more involved if we have a high interest in the outcome of the conflict, if it directly affects us in some way..if not.. we can’t be bothered I guess 🙂

  4. I consider that it is a bit more complex than that. Indeed how people deal with conflict it is an important part but simultaneously depends very much on the circumstances. Different situations might have different outcomes that might affect more or less a person, as Emily said. One has a higher interest in one situation, hence the reaction to conflict might be different rather than in a situation where the point of resistance is quite far or nonexistent and the outcome does not affect one as much.

    • Hello, Ben! Great to see your comment!

      I guess it’s always about the consequences that one conflict might generate.. the desired outcome should be to learn something from that experience and to progress. Hope you’ll take a look at the rest of the articles and share your views!

  5. I agree with the comments above. It is really up to my mood. Sometimes you want to fight for your point and sometimes you don’t want to bother and you just give up without saying a word. I answered my personality was competing, but I think I can be a bit of everything. Depending on the situation and on the person you are talking to.
    You can think you are right and no one can tell you that you are wrong. In another case, you can talk to someone with a complete different view and at some point you can agree (even if you don’t) just because you want to please this person or because you don’t have time to fight.

    Well, I guess I switch styles depending on the situation, and I think everyone nowadays is doing that.

    • Bonjour Frenchdiary! Great to hear from you!

      I actually see myself in some of the situations described by you. I guess it happens to all of us: we only get involved and fight for our points of view when we care. We have started being more thoughtful when it comes to our time management and more cautious in investing our energy. From this point of view, conflict can be viewed as a positive thing, indeed. When we contradict, negotiate and debate, we really DO care about the outcome and that’s the goal after all: to fight for our ideas, aims, dreams, etc.

      Thanks for commenting and I hope you`ll take a look at the rest of the articles as well !

  6. I like this post a lot because not only does it explore the different responses to conflict there are, but also looks at the rationale and human psyche behind it.
    Now, as much as I would hate to admit it, for the majority of my life I have used the accommodating approach, and you are absolutely right – it does lead to internal conflict. (Ironically enough, I just wrote a blog post about internal conflict myself 🙂 And while said internal conflict can lead to a positive change it can also lead to a bit of a personal crisis. No one likes being a pushover but eventually, after accommodating so many people on so many occasions, one begins to think that they’ve let themselves be pushed down a lot. Soon after realising this I definitely made an effort to adopt different responses and in most cases those were avoiding conflict or compromising. I use those two because I am not looking to aggravate a person or a situation and also because with a short temper such as mine, I don’t fully trust myself to keep my pride out of the equation if the other party was to try and impose their views.
    In conclusion, I suppose it may be time for another change. As people grow, I do believe that they change their responses to conflict naturally. Confidence plays a big part in this. As does maturity.

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