Five Unique Conflict Management Approaches

According to research, two psychologists, Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann, their Thomas-Kilmann Model in the 1970s  suggests there are five unique conflict management approaches, which include: collaborating, competing, compromising, accommodating, and avoiding.

Each one of the five conflict styles has its own advantages and drawbacks. No one conflict style is better than the other. The key is to be mindful of the approach you take to conflict as well as having a deeper understanding of the other styles will enable you to approach specific scenarios in a way that leads to better outcomes.

There also has been much research done on different types of conflict management styles, which are communication strategies that attempt to avoid, address or resolve a conflict. It must be noted that styles are not always consciously chosen. We may instead be caught up in emotion and become reactionary.

Five Unique Conflict Management Approaches

The strategies for managing conflict include competing, avoiding, accommodating, compromising and collaborating

1. Competing Conflict Management Style

The competing style indicates a high concern for self and a low concern for others. When we compete, we are striving to win the conflict, potentially at the expense or loss of the other person. One way we may  guage our win is by being granted or taking concessions from the other person. The competing style also involves the use of power, which can be coercive or non coercive. This style has been linked to aggression, although the two are not always paired if assertiveness does not work. There is a chance it could escalate to hostility.

2. Avoiding Conflict Management Style

This often indicates low concern for self and a low concern for others, and no direct communication about the conflict. In some situations, avoiding a conflict can show a high level of concern for the other. In general, avoidance does not mean that there is no communication about the conflict. Remember, you cannot NOT communicate! Even when you try to avoid conflict, you may intentionally or unintentionally give your feelings away through verbal and non verbal communication. This style is either passive or indirect, meaning there is little information exchange.

3. Accommodating Conflict Management Style

A style that indicates a low concern for self and a high concern for others and is often viewed as passive or submissive. This is because  someone complies with or obliges another without providing personal input. Generally, we accommodate because we are being generous, we are obeying or we are yielding.

Accommodating can be suitable when there is little chance that our own goals can be achieved. Research has shown that the accommodating style is more likely to occur when there are time restraints and less likely to occur when someone does not want to appear weak.

The context for and motivation behind accommodating play a vital role in whether or not it is an appropriate conflict management strategy.

4. Compromising Conflict Management Style

This style shows a moderate concern for self and others and may indicate that there is a low investment in the conflict or relationship. Even though it is always said that the best way to handle a conflict is to compromise, the compromising style is not a win, win solution.

It is a partial win and lose. In essence, when we compromise, we give up some or most of what we want. It may be a good strategy when there are time limitations or when prolonging a conflict may lead to relationship deterioration. Compromise may also be good when both parties have equal power or when other resolution strategies have refused to work.

5. Collaborating Conflict Management Style

This is a style that involves a high degree of concern for self and others. It usually indicates investment in the conflict situation and the relationship. Although the collaborating style takes the most work in terms  of communication competence, it ultimately leads to a win/win situation in which neither party has to make concessions because a mutually beneficial solution is discovered.

Its obvious advantage is that both parties are satisfied and which could lead to positive problem solving in the future. It could also strengthen the overall relationship. The disadvantage lies in the fact that it is time consuming and only one person may be willing to embrace this approach.

Leave a Reply