What's Your Conflict Style?

Last Updated Sep 24, 2008 6:29 AM EDT

punch.jpgConflict is a process that occurs between two or more persons or groups when they have different points of views, different goals, different needs and values.
Every single person will have conflict with someone at some stage in their life. It's inevitable and can be good for relationships -- business and personal. Well managed conflict can lead us to acquire new ideas, learn something about ourselves and gain fresh insights. Learn painful lessons and move forward wiser and empowered. Conflict can be good for you.

Six causes of conflict:

  1. Needs or wants are not met.
  2. Values are being tested.
  3. Perceptions are being questioned.
  4. Assumptions are being made.
  5. Knowledge is minimal.
  6. Expectations are too high/too low.

How we handle conflict is determined by a complex web of facts such as personality, upbringing, interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence, gender, race and culture

Two people in a conflicting situation will unavoidably have different approaches to how they perceive the problem how they handle conflict and their attitude to resolution.

What is your conflict style?

  • Avoiders Some people simply hate difficult conversations and will do anything to avoid facing the issue, to the point of kidding themselves nothing is wrong. Or they may be unaware that one of their needs in not being met and they unconsciously start to act out. Sabotaging behaviours such as turning up late for meetings, missing deadlines or not returning calls are common in the workplace.Dangers of avoidance Most conflicting problems rarely disappear into thin air. Not addressing conflict and pretending all is OK allowing the time bomb to keep ticking. Avoiders eventually have emotional outbursts and shock those around them, who are unaware anything is wrong.
  • Analysers Analysers instinctively retreat and work out what is going on. Unlike the avoider, the analyser isn't kidding themselves the problem will go away, but will want to spend time working out what is the cause and how they should resolve it. Some analysers will search out friends and colleagues to talk through the problem. Google and self-help books are other analytical tools.Dangers of analysing It is sensible to think things through, but over-analysing can be destructive. One person's retreat can be another's moody sulk. Some analysers don't act as if anything is wrong, so when they move on from analysing to discussion the other party can be caught unaware. Having worked it all out an analyser will start a difficult conversation with their mind already made up. Chances are the other party won't agree and the conflict may end up explosive.
  • Confronters Confronters waste no time jumping in and facing challenges head on. They have a sense of urgency and want to thrash things out and argue their point until the problem is resolved. Their language is typically direct, challenging and emotional. The goal is to solve the problem and find a resolution as soon as possible so they can move on to the next thing. Dangers of confronting Confronting matters head on, without any reflection or consideration of consequences can backfire. It is natural to feel emotional during conflict. But trying to resolve it in a highly emotional state will come across as irrational and illogical. If the goal is to move quickly and resolve the problem, confrontation isn't the best way forward.
Five types of 'bad' conflict consequences
  1. Takes attention away from other important activities.
  2. Undermines morale or self-concept.
  3. Polarises people and reduces co-operation.
  4. Increases or sharpens differences.
  5. Leads to irresponsible and harmful behaviour, such as fighting, name-calling.
So how do you have 'good' conflict?
  1. Recognise signs of conflict early.
  2. Understand why this is a conflict for you? Is it about needs, values, goals or opinions?
  3. Aim to work at resolving conflict sooner rather than later -- before the red mist descends
  4. Be clear, concise and choose your works carefully.
  5. Be aware of your conflict style especially its dangers.
  6. Build authentic and honest relationships with people before conflicts arise.
  7. Accept you can't change others, only yourself.
  8. Help others develop understanding -- not everyone is an expert communicator.
  9. Watch your body language during conflict.
  10. Be prepared to agree to disagree.
(Image by Ajda Gregorcic, CC2.0)
  • Salma Shah

    Salma Shah is the founder of Beyond, which employs consulting, training, coaching and mentoring to help individuals to improve their own performance at work. A psychology graduate, Salma worked in IT for more than 17 years and now advises clients such as Cap Gemini, Microsoft, Oracle and New Star Asset Management.