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.
Additionally, you can take a free conflict style assessment on the United States Institute of Peace Website via the link below.
Which conflict style are you? Is this what you expected?
(You won't be tested on this.)
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.
According to the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Styles Assessment, there are five different conflict styles:
|Conflict Style||Description||Position on the Graph|
|Accommodating||One party helps to meet another's needs by sacrificing his/her own.||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.|
|Avoiding||One party does not acknowledge or try to resolve the conflict.||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.|
|Competing||One party seeks to meet his or her own needs at the expense of another party's needs.||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.|
|Collaborating||Parties work together to try to meet everyone's needs.||Collaborating is high in assertiveness because the party who is collaborating is speaking up about its own needs. It is also high in cooperativeness, as this style is willing to work with others in terms of their needs as well.|
|Compromising||Parties agree to sacrifice some of their needs in exchange for having others met.||A compromising style is right in the middle in terms of both assertiveness and cooperation.|
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.
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 typically have one that we tend towards.