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 impose 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.
- 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 both 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.
- Collaborating: 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?