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Conflict Styles: Collaborating

Conflict Styles: Collaborating

Author: Sophia Tutorial

Identify examples of the collaborating conflict style.

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You're in a conflict and you're hoping for a win-win solution for both parties. I'm Marlene. And today I'd like to talk with you about the collaborating style of conflict which really is a style that does focus on a win-win solution. So let's define collaborating as a style of conflict. Here we have collaborating. It's a conflict resolution style in which parties work jointly to try to meet all of each other's needs-- all of each other's needs.

So where does collaborating fall here on this graph? You notice we have assertiveness along one side and cooperative on an axis at the bottom. And collaborating falls right here. It's high in assertiveness. And it's also high in cooperativeness.

Now what is cooperativeness and assertiveness? Let's take a moment and define that. So let's start with assertiveness. Assertiveness is behavior in which a person confidently makes a statement without need of proof, affirming his or her rights without attacking another's. What's key here is that a person will talk about what they need and want but they will not put down what someone else needs or wants.

Then there's cooperativeness. And that is behavior in which two parties work in concert to achieve their mutual and respective individual goals. So let's look at a couple of examples here of collaboration.

We can look at an example where it's perhaps a political issue. There's land use. And you want to preserve the environmental integrity of this land. One party wants to work for that but there are also farmers who use this land and they want to protect their jobs.

So you use a collaborative style to look at this issue and problem solve so that you can meet both the needs of the farmers and preserve those jobs. But you could also look at the environmental needs and preserve the environmental use of the land. That would be a collaborative way to problem solve this conflict over land.

You could also look at collaboration within your own personal life. Let's say there is a work family balance issue at home. Your partner has just taken on some extra work duties. And it's really thrown kind of a wrench here into family life arrangements. And you sit down because you want to ensure that the two of you and the kids have some quality time together.

But you also want to ensure that you can still share some of the household duties here and it won't fall all on the one spouse who's not taking on the extra work duties. So you problem solve. You collaborate to find a way that you can meet the needs of the changing work dynamic as well as the family home life needs. So that would be collaborating.

Now the opposite of collaborating many times is accommodating. Accommodating falls down here on the scale. It is very high in cooperativeness but low in assertiveness.

So in our example here at home, an accommodating style might give in. And one partner might say, well, you know, I'll just pitch in here. I'll do some extra work even though maybe they feel a little resentful about it. But it's hard for that person to say no. They're uncomfortable being assertive, standing up for their needs. That would be accommodating, whereas collaborative would want to recognize the needs of both parties and cooperate so that all needs could be met.

Most conflict resolution processes and techniques really work towards bringing parties together in a collaborative style because the collaborative style is really focused on preventing negative outcomes. Let's take a moment here and define positive and negative outcomes in conflict.

So positive and negative outcomes are resolutions to a conflict that a party perceives as meeting his or her needs and/or reducing likelihood of further conflict-- that would be positive-- or not meeting his or her needs and/or increasing likelihood of further conflict. That, of course, would be negative. The collaborative conflict style really does focus here on the positive outcome in a conflict.

So once again, it's important to note that all conflict styles are styles that you might use freely in different situations. People certainly do use more than one style. But everybody has their preferred style. And collaborating might be your preferred style, the one you're most comfortable with. Doesn't mean it's the only style that you use.

So thank you for being part of this tutorial. And I look forward to seeing you next time.

Terms to Know

Behavior in which a person confidently makes a statement without need of proof, affirming his/her rights without attacking another's.


A conflict resolution style in which parties work jointly to try to meet all of each others needs.


Behavior in which two parties work in concert to achieve their mutual and respective individual goals.

positive/negative outcomes

Resolutions to a conflict that a party perceives as meeting his/her needs and/or reducing likelihood of further conflict (positive) or not meeting his/her needs and/or increasing likelihood of further conflict (negative).