Get a Handle on Conflicts Before They Spin Out of Control

Posted by Kristin Arnold on May 29, 2009

Conflict is inevitable, whether you are making a holiday dinner or engaging in a lively family debate.  They key is in managing conflict, rather than letting conflict spiral out of control.

Most people don’t like conflict and react in a variety of ways:

Avoiders.  They prefer the conflict to go away.  Unfortunately, conflict never simply “goes away.”  It just comes back in a bigger and uglier form until it becomes unavoidable.  Usually, the conflict escalates far beyond the ability to engage in a rational discussion and resolution.

Accommodators. These folks prefer to pacify or placate antagonistic team members – just to keep the peace.  This strategy buys peace in the short run, but eventually accommodators erupt.  They carefully keep score of each infraction tolerated, each accommodation made.  Then one inconsequential event trips them over the edge!  It’s the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back.  The “conflict” usually centers around the “straw,” versus the real issues.

Competitors. They want it their way.  Period.  No room for discussion.  The competitor wants to win and will do and say anything to be successful.

Compromisers. “You have to lose a little to gain a little” is their mantra.  They enter into conflict willing to “lose the battle, but win the war.”  Unfortunately, they never really pick which battles are worth compromising for or figure out which war they are fighting!  A compromise is never particularly satisfying to anyone involved.  By it’s very definition, no one “wins.”  Everyone has to give up something – and it usually doesn’t lend itself to the best possible outcome.

Conciliators. A close cousin to the accommodator and compromiser, the conciliator offers up something as a prelude to receiving something in return.  Conciliators offer the proverbial bone you give to a dog to get the dog to do what they want.  You could call this bribery, but the politically-correct term is “conciliation.”

Collaborators. Looking for a win-win, collaborators have the courage to speak their mind as well as consideration for other points of view.  They search for a consensus that everyone can live with and support.

Within your family or your team, recognize that each person approaches conflict differently.  The key is to manage the dynamic versus letting the conflict escalate out of control.

Question:  What category do you fall into and what have your results been?

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