Managing Conflict

In the previous post I looked at how we handle conflict as well as some of the most common causes for conflict occurring. I would like to continue on this topic by looking at some of the various approaches that we take in handling conflict. So enough about that and lets dig into this topic a bit further!

Common Approaches

We all have different personality types and based on the type we tend to handle conflict in different ways. The following are some of the most common styles in which people tend to handle issues:

  • Avoidance (Uncooperative & Unassertive)
    In this situation you don't address your, or the other person's issues, and choose to ignore them completely.

  • Accommodating (Cooperative & Unassertive)
    When I think of this style, a martyr comes to mind, as what they try to so is to meet the other persons needs at their own expense.

  • Dominating (Uncooperative & Assertive)
    This is the opposite of the accommodating style in the sense that they will use people, or do what is ever necessary, in order to benefit themselves.

  • Collaborative (Cooperative & Assertive)
    This style is the opposite of avoidance, and is in my opinion is the best of the lot because both parties work together to find a goal that satisfies everyone's needs.

  • Compromising (Halfway in Cooperative & Assertive)
    In this scenario, you would be in a situation where both parties aren't too happy with the outcome, but accept it anyway.

The Right Style for the Right Situation

Certain circumstances may require that you adopt a different style in order to achieve the end goal. Below are some of the situations in which you may want to adopt a particular style as well as some of the side effects that go with it.

Avoidance

When to Avoid
  • Trivial issues
  • The chances are slim of getting what you want
  • When other people can resolve the situation more effectively
  • The damage of avoiding the issue is more beneficial than a resolution
Side Effects
  • You are left with unresolved issues
  • Decisions left up to other people
  • Can't provide any input
  • Energy is drained from all the unresolved issues

Accommodating

When to Accommodate
  • The realization that you are incorrect
  • If continuing with the issue would only cause more damage
  • The issue has a much greater impact on the other party
  • When you think that preserving the peace if of a greater importance
Side Effects
  • Repeatedly accommodating will lead to a loss of respect
  • You may feel frustration as your own needs are not met
  • You potentially lose out on a better solution

Dominating

When to Dominate
  • A quick decision is needed
  • When you know that the decision you need to make is the best for the team/organization
  • When people try to take advantage of your nature
Side Effects
  • Eventually, everyone around you will just say "yes"
  • A reduction in communication, as a result of the point above
  • Damaging relationships
  • Starting to believe the false perception that everyone trusts & looks up to you

Collaborative

When to Collaborate
  • When you need to merge the insights of the from the various participants
  • To increase the commitment from all the parties
  • When you cant compromise on the goals of both parties
Side Effects
  • You may spend a lot of time on insignificant issues
  • Ineffective decisions are made as some people may be unfamiliar with the decision

Compromising

When to Compromise
  • When you have to parties equally committed to achieving their goal
  • You need a solution and you are under time pressure
  • It can be used as a "back up" should collaboration or domination fail
Side Effects
  • No one is really satisfied with the outcome
  • Typically a short-term solution


Conflict Styles

Everyone has a particular style in trying to handle conflict situations. I would like to go over some of the different styles and challenge you to identify what style you normally take.

Avoider

These are typically people who are unassertive as they do everything they can to avoid the fight or issue. In doing this, the issue never gets resolved and no one wins.

Guilt Maker

This type of person will not directly say that they don't want something, but instead try to change your opinion by taking you on a guild trip. Often, something along the following lines are often said by them "Its' fine I will do it myself, I have been doing it by myself for a while anyway...". Essentially, this boils down to being a form of manipulation.

Subject Changer

If you have ever been with a person who tries to change the subject of the conversation when it may cause some form of conflict, then you will know what I am talking about. By doing this, they hope to avoid the issue but in the end they never do anything to actually correct problem.

Mind Reader

When you encounter a mind reader, you will often see that they will tell you what you are actually experiencing. They think that they know what is going on in your head and don't give you the opportunity to actually express yourself and thereby operate on assumptions.

Withholder

In this approach, you will see that one person "punishes" the other by keeping back something from them that they know they need. This may be anything from a resource that the other party desperately needs to trivial things like love and affection from your spouse in our own personal relationships.

Trapper

The trapper will cleverly question someone about a particular topic and once you have obtained the desired response, they pounce on you. For example, they may say "What did you say yesterday about this?" and once they have said what they want to hear, they say something along the lines of "YOU SEE! Look what you just said..." Essentially, they trap and corner you into a situation.

Gunny Sacker

This type of person doesn't express their feeling immediately, but will instead place them in their "gunny sack". Over time, this sack will get bigger and bigger until it explodes and overwhelms the other individual. When you typically here someone saying something along the lines of "Don't worry, that's more ammo for me to use..." or "That's fine, I'll just make a note of it..." they are gunny sackers.

Trivial Tyraniser

Instead of actually sharing how they feel, the tyraniser will do things to irritate the other person. As the name implies, these are often trivial things such as not washing up the dishes or not making a cup of tea for your partner.

Joker

This person will have a fear of facing conflict, so instead what they do is try to joke and play around thereby avoiding the situation and not really expressing how they feel.

Beltliner

These people often say things that are below the belt which "dig" at a particular issue. These are often sensitive topics that they know the other person doesn't want to be brought up and is often used as a form or retaliation.

Kitchen Sink Fighter

We all know the person who brings up all the past issues when you are having an argument. Almost always, these are things that aren't even related to the topic at hand. A way to approach this type of person is to try stay focused on the issue and if any other issues are brought up, those are noted and discussed about afterwards.

I know that I have used almost all of these conflict styles in my life, without ever having a name for them. I hope that this post opened up your eyes on some of the ways in which different people handle conflict because in knowing this you can be better prepared to deal with the situation.

Until next time...keep learning!

Mauro Da Silva

Learning everyday about software development, leadership & self improvement

South Africa