Understanding conflict styles

When conflict arises, each person has a particular way or style that they prefer to use to handle the conflict or confrontation. While we are not locked into our preferred conflict style, it is our "default setting" and moving out of our comfort zone to a more appropriate conflict resolution style may be challenging. However, learning to understand conflict styles allows us to adapt to different situations where conflict may arise in our personal and professional lives.

What are the 5 conflict styles?

The five conflict styles for responding to conflict are:

  1. Competition - this style is characterised by an "I win, you lose" mentality. People with this conflict style often come across as aggressive and confrontational and will attempt to gain power in an argument. In romantic relationships, people with this conflict style will try to score points, and are often unable to see their partner's point of view.

  2. Collaboration - this style is characterised by an "I win, you win"mentality. People with a preference for this conflict style will often view conflict as a problem to be overcome and try to work with the other person to find a solution. This style build respect and trust and can foster a healthy relationship. All parties leave a conflict feeling as though their needs have been respected and addressed.

  3. Compromising - characterised by an "I win some, you win some" mentality. This style involves a willingness from both parties to sacrifice certain desired outcomes fir the sake of resolving the dispute. Compromising is often necessary in relationship, as it takes less time than collaboration and allows both parties to walk away feeling that the resolution was fair and equal.

  4. Avoiding - as it sounds, avoiding occurs when a person deliberately withdraws from conflict rather than facing it. People with this style will often hope that the problem will go away or resolve itself with time and space. However, it can be perceived by the other person as not caring about the issue or the relationship, and can result in issues simmering in the background of a relationship.

  5. Accommodating - a person with an accommodating mind-set will often set aside their personal needs and views so that they can please others and maintain peace in their relationships. While accommodating is appropriate in some circumstances, it can also create a power imbalance and result in decreased relationship satisfaction in the long-term as issues are not fully resolved.

Using conflict styles mindfully

There is no right or wrong when it comes to conflict styles. Rather, we each have a preferred conflict styles which we will default to when conflict arises.

Understanding what your conflict styles is and recognising when you are defaulting to it may help you to resolve conflict more effectively. For example, if you tend towards avoidance, you can learn to be mindful of when you are seeking to avoid confrontation and consciously consider whether a different conflict style may be more appropriate in a given situation. This is challenging to do. In most cases, particularly early on, attempting to use a different conflict style will make us extremely uncomfortable and even anxious or stress in conflict. However, with practice, we are able to be more adaptable and responsive to different conflict situations, both in personal and professional lives.

This is part of a series of posts on conflict in relationships. In our last post, we looked at causes of conflict and common topics of conflict. Next week, we'll start looking at some strategies to reduce and resolve conflict. Don't miss it!

If you need help dealing with conflict in your relationship, contact Sue on 0439 294 532.

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