Different people use different methods to resolve conflict, and most people have one or more natural, preferred conflict resolution strategies that they use regularly. It is possible to scientifically measure an individual's inclinations toward specific conflict resolution strategies. In this article, we will discuss the five different categories of conflict resolution from the Thomas-Kilmann model, as well as their advantages and disadvantages.
The Thomas-Kilmann Model
The Thomas-Kilmann Model identifies five different approaches to resolving conflict. These approaches include:
Someone who uses a strategy of "avoiding" mostly tries to ignore or sidestep the conflict, hoping it will resolve itself or dissipate.
Using the strategy of "accommodating" to resolve conflict essentially involves taking steps to satisfy the other party's concerns or demands at the expense of your own needs or desires.
The strategy of "compromising" involves finding an acceptable resolution that will partly, but not entirely, satisfy the concerns of all parties involved.
Someone who uses the conflict resolution strategy of "competing" tries to satisfy their own desires at the expense of the other parties involved.
Using "collaborating" involves finding a solution that entirely satisfies the concerns of all involved parties.
The Thomas-Kilmann model identifies two dimensions people fall into when choosing a conflict resolution strategy: assertiveness and cooperativeness. Assertiveness involves taking action to satisfy your own needs, while cooperativeness involves taking action to satisfy the other's needs.
Each of the conflict resolution strategies above involves different degrees of assertiveness and cooperativeness. For example, while accommodating includes a high degree of cooperativeness and a low degree of assertiveness, competing consists of a low degree of cooperativeness and a high degree of assertiveness.
Choosing the Right Conflict Resolution Method
Even though you may prefer one of the conflict resolution strategies discussed above over the others, all of these strategies can be used effectively in certain situations.
For example, if the issue is minor and won't have lasting consequences, it may be in your best interest to accommodate the other party rather than to try to serve your own needs. However, if the issue is more severe and will impact multiple people, it may make sense to choose a strategy with more assertiveness.
To choose the best conflict resolution method in any given situation, you need to consider several factors, such as:
- How important your desires are.
- The impact on you or others if your desires are not served.
- The consequences of choosing to be more assertive.
- Whether a collaborative or cooperative solution exists.
Improving Your Ability to Resolve Conflict
Being able to choose and apply the best conflict resolution strategy effectively is made possible by developing better conflict resolution skills. Examples of conflict resolution skills that can help you include the ability to:
- Listen effectively.
- Identify specific points of disagreement.
- Express your own needs clearly.
- View conflict as an opportunity for growth.
- Focus on specific issues without generalizing or escalating the situation.
Although you may have a proclivity towards a specific type of conflict resolution, you are not required to use this strategy in every situation. With time and effort, you can learn new conflict resolution skills that improve your ability to negotiate and resolve issues with others. Eventually, you will be able to select and use the conflict resolution strategy that is best for the situation, as opposed to the one that is most comfortable or familiar.