Whenever we work together with other people, we’ll run into conflicts at some point. The better you are with handling conflicts, the more you can get done.

There are numerous conflict style models, but the one I’d like to look at today is called the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument.

It is a model based around two axes: assertive and cooperative (here’s an image). This results in four styles, and in the model a fifth one is added which is located in the middle. Here they are:

  • Accommodating: You are highly cooperative and low assertive: basically you’re giving up on your own goals. This strategy is effective when the other party is the clear expert, or when you want to invest in the future relationship. You’re yielding to other’s point of view.
  • Avoiding: You aren’t helping with completing the goal, nor are you helping others. This works when the issue is trivial, or when it is a very costly issue. Avoiding can also be a successful (temporary) style if the environment is very emotional. In general, avoiding is not a strong long term strategy.
  • Collaborating: Seeking win-win, we talked about this before. This is one of the most effective strategies when you need to find a new solution. It requires a high degree of trust, and it can take a lot more time to come up with a good solution.
  • Competing: The classic “win-lose” approach. You focus on your own goals, without seeking cooperation with the other party. May be appropriate when you’re looking for a quick solution, or in situations where a speedy response is required.
  • Compromising: A compromise is very often a “lose-lose”, because neither party really achieves what they want. May be appropriate when a temporary solution is required, or when both sides have equally important goals.

Knowing how you’re handling conflicts helps to increase the knowledge about yourself, and with that increase your self-awareness. By knowing the different strategies, you can pick one that is the best solution for the situation you’re in.