“We can agree to disagree”. Ever heard that statement before? As human beings it’s only natural that we do not always agree with each other. In the different interactions that we have, conflicts may easily arise. This can happen in the relationships that we build in our personal life and at work. When people have incompatible interests, goals, principles, opinions and ideas disagreements can occur. The goal of conflict management is to manage yourself and others to bring the best possible resolution of a conflict situation. Being able to handle conflicts provides opportunities to improve relationships, to stimulate problem-solving and open communication to arrive at better solutions. There are different styles to conflict management and usually a person tends to adopt one style over the others. The following are some ways people deal with conflicts and some pros and cons to each style. Which one do you identify with?
- Avoidance – When a conflict arises, a person who adopts this style avoids the conflict by withdrawing and pretending that nothing has happened. In this way the conflict is avoided entirely and confrontation does not occur. This style is ineffective because the conflict will remain unless it is tackled or it becomes worse by ignoring that a problem exists. However, this style can be effective if the problem will resolve itself in a matter of time.
- Accommodation – This is one of the most passive conflict management styles. A person who accommodates someone else gives up what they want for the other person. This style is inappropriate when a person chooses to give up on something which is important to them and it only solves the problem temporarily. It can be effective when the relationship is more important than winning an argument. If the issue is very important to the other person but not to the person accommodating, this style may work out well.
- Compromise – An individual who prefers to compromise wants to work to find a mutual solution which works for both parties. The issue is addressed and a middle-ground position is sought. Thus, in this conflict management style you win some and you lose some. This style is effective because power is distributed equally between people. In the end, the conflict gets resolved and a fair solution is sought. However, when a situation is urgent or when one person holds more power over the other this style can be problematic.
- Collaboration – The individual prefers to work with the other person to find a common solution where everyone is satisfied. A win-win solution is achieved since everyone feels that their goal has been achieved. Any emerging issues are explored in depth to discuss different scenarios. This style is effective because the needs of the persons involved in the conflict are met. However, unless the persons trust each other and all parties are willing to be open and to change their thinking, this style will not be effective.
- Competition – This style involves individuals who compete to pursue their own interests without taking into consideration the other person. Competition is usually over power and typically the person seeks to win the argument. This style can be aggressive because the other person can easily be taken advantage of. This style can be effective during an emergency situation when a decision needs to be made quickly.
– Dr Marilyn Muscat is registered as an Educational Psychologist with the Health and Care Professions Council in the United Kingdom where she trained. She works with children, adolescents and their families to understand more about educational, social and emotional well-being concerns that they have and to help them improve upon their difficulties.