People learn a predominant conflict style from their families, experiences, and social interactions.  As a result, everyone does not address conflicts in the same way.  These different styles can exacerbate the situation, especially when people do not understand why people react in certain ways.  A popular conflict style assessment instrument, The Thomas-Kilman Conflict Mode Instrument, identifies five basic conflict management styles, including: 

  • Avoiding
  • Accommodating
  • Compromosing
  • Collaborating
  • Competing   

While it may seem that collaborating is the most effective style, the circumstance determines the most appropriate conflict style to use.  For example, a collaborative style may not be appropriate when the other person is not trustworthy.  Avoiding does little to identify root causes and to resolve the conflict.  However, it can be temporarily suitable if safety is an issue.  

Knowing our conflict style, and understanding the styles of those we work with, can help alleviate the negative consequences of working with people who are different from us.  In the next few articles, characteristics of each style and appropriate times to employ each will be presented.  

I will look at each style in more detail starting next week.