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Overview of the 5 Conflict Styles

Overview of the 5 Conflict Styles

Description:

At the end of this lesson, the learner will understand the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Assessment and the five conflict styles it presents

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Tutorial

What's Covered


In this lesson, we’ll discuss the five ways of responding to a conflict, as defined in the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Styles Assessment.

The areas of focus include:

  1. Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Styles Assessment
  2. The five conflict styles
    1. Accommodating
    2. Avoiding
    3. Competing
    4. Compromising
    5. Collaborating
  3. Preferred conflict style

1. THOMAS-KILMANN CONFLICT STYLES ASSESSMENT

How do you typically respond in a conflict situation?

A great way to explore this question is through the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Styles Assessment, which is one of the most commonly used assessment tools to determine a person's preferred conflict style.

This tool was developed back in 1974, by Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann, and is a short assessment of 30 questions. Taking this questionnaire is a great way to provide personal context to this lesson.

You will also want to take a look at the chart below, which we will refer to throughout the lesson.

As you can see, one axis has assertiveness, or a behavior in which a person confidently makes a statement without need of proof, affirming his or her rights without attacking another person.

The other axis has cooperativeness, or a behavior in which parties work together to achieve their mutual and respective individual goals.

Each of the five conflict styles will fall somewhere on this graph, depending on whether they involve high assertiveness, low assertiveness, high cooperativeness, or low cooperativeness.

Terms to Know

    • Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Styles Assessment
    • One of the most commonly used assessment tools to determine a person’s preferred conflict style.
    • Assertiveness
    • Behavior in which a person confidently makes a statement without need of proof, affirming his/her rights without attacking another’s.
    • Cooperativeness
    • Behavior in which two parties work in concert to achieve their mutual and respective individual goals.

2. THE FIVE CONFLICT STYLES

According to the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Styles Assessment, there are five different conflict styles:

  • Accommodating
  • Avoiding
  • Competing
  • Compromising
  • Collaborating

Let’s take a closer look at each while referring to the graph.

a. Accommodating

Accommodating is a conflict resolution style in which one party helps to meet another's needs at the expense of his or her own.

The position of accommodating on the graph indicates that people who use this style are highly cooperative and willing to work with others.

However, this style is low on assertiveness, meaning people who use this style are less likely to speak up when something is bothering them.

Term to Know

    • Accommodating
    • A conflict resolution style in which one party helps to meet another’s needs at the expense of his/her own.

b. Avoiding

Avoiding is a conflict resolution style in which a party does not make any attempt to address or resolve the conflict.

As you can see, avoiding is low in both cooperativeness and assertiveness. People who are using this style are not going to say how they feel, and they’re also not really working with others.

Term to Know

    • Avoiding
    • A conflict resolution style in which a party does not make any attempt to address or resolve the conflict.

c. Competing

Competing is a conflict resolution style in which one party seeks to meet his or her own needs at the expense of another party's needs. This is also sometimes known as forcing.

As we would expect, competing is high in assertiveness; people who use this style are speaking up about their wants or needs. However, this style is very low in cooperativeness.

Term to Know

    • Competing
    • A conflict resolution style in which one party seeks to meet his/her own needs at the expense of another party’s needs (sometimes also referred to as forcing).

d. Collaborating

Collaborating is a conflict resolution style in which parties work jointly to try to meet all of each other's needs. This is sometimes also referred to as problem solving. On the graph, you’ll notice that collaborating is high in assertiveness because the party who is collaborating is speaking up about its own needs.

Collaborating is also high in cooperativeness, as this style is willing to work with others in terms of their needs as well.

Term to Know

    • Collaborating
    • A conflict resolution style in which parties work jointly to try to meet all of each other’s needs (sometimes also referred to as problem solving).

e. Compromising

Compromising is a conflict resolution style in which parties agree to sacrifice some of their needs in exchange for having others met.

Therefore, a compromising style is right in the middle in terms of both assertiveness and cooperation.

Term to Know

    • Compromising
    • A conflict resolution style in which parties agree to sacrifice some of their needs in exchange for having others met.

3. PREFERRED CONFLICT STYLE

You may now wonder which out of these five is the preferred or best conflict style. However, the preferred conflict style is simply the conflict style an individual most often or habitually uses.

When you take this questionnaire, you may find that there's one of these styles that you tend towards; it’s the one you're most comfortable with in most situations.

That preferred style isn’t right or wrong, and it doesn’t prevent you from using any of the other styles. In fact, an individual can use any and all of these styles in a given situation.

Term to Know

    • Preferred Conflict Style
    • The conflict style an individual most often or habitually uses.

Big Idea

Because different situations may call for different styles, it’s important to remember that you are capable of using any style. The preferred style is only meant to signify that we as individuals we typically have one that we tend towards.


Summary


In this lesson, you learned about the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Styles Assessment, and how it can be used to determine which of the five conflict styles you most often use: accommodating, avoiding, competing, compromising, or collaborating.

You now understand that while the quiz may help you find your preferred conflict style, the result doesn't mean that’s the only style of conflict you can or should use.

Good luck!

Source: Adapted from Sophia tutorial by Marlene Johnson.

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Preferred Conflict Style

    The conflict style an individual most often or habitually uses.

  • Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Styles Assessment

    One of the most commonly used assessment tools to determine a person’s preferred conflict style.

  • Assertiveness

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

  • Cooperativeness

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

  • Accommodating

    A conflict resolution style in which one party helps to meet another’s needs at the expense of his/her own.

  • Avoiding

    A conflict resolution style in which a party does not make any attempt to address or resolve the conflict.

  • Competing

    A conflict resolution style in which one party seeks to meet his/her own needs at the expense of another party’s needs (sometimes also referred to as forcing).

  • Compromising

    A conflict resolution style in which parties agree to sacrifice some of their needs in exchange for having others met.

  • Collaborating

    A conflict resolution style in which parties work jointly to try to meet all of each other’s needs (sometimes also referred to as problem solving).