What’s your conflict style? Tips for getting better results

“Conflict is a process that occurs between two or more persons or groups when they have different points of views, different goals, different needs and values”

Every single person will have conflict with someone at some stage in their life. Those who say they never have conflict are either liars or emotionally detached from reality and not in touch with their feelings.

Conflict is inevitable and can be good for relationships (business and personal). A well managed conflict can lead us to acquire new ideas, learn something about ourselves and gain fresh insights. Learn painful lessons and move forward wiser and empowered. Conflict can be good for you.

How we handle conflict is determined by a complex web of facts such as personality, upbringing, interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence, gender, race and culture. Two people in a conflicting situation will unavoidably have different approaches to how they perceive the problem how they handle conflict and their attitude to resolution.

6 causes of conflict include:

1. Needs or wants are not being met
2. Values are being tested
3. Perceptions are being questioned
4. Assumptions are being made
5. Knowledge is minimal
6. Expectations are too high/too low

What is your conflict style?

The avoiders

Some people simply hate difficult conversations and will do anything to avoid facing the issue. To the point of kidding themselves nothing is wrong or wish the problem will simply go away and magically resolve itself. Sometimes the individual is not even aware that one of their needs in not being met and they unconsciously start to act out. Sabotaging behaviours such as turning up late for meetings, missing deadlines or not returning calls are common in the workplace.

Dangers of avoidance behaviour; most conflicting problems rarely disappear into thin air. Not addressing conflict and pretending all is ok is a ticking time bomb. A pressure cooker left simmering quietly which will eventually explode and shatter. Avoiders eventually have emotional outbursts and shock those around them who have been totally unaware anything was wrong.

How to resolve conflict if this is your style: Accept that avoiding confrontation is a no win situation. Ask yourself the deeper questions of why you avoid confrontation. Is it a lack of self-confidence and self-esteem or do you simply lack the skills of having tough honest conversations. Once you have some self-awareness accept this is scary for you but you have to start somewhere. Run your approach by a trusted friend who has no problems dealing with conflict. Trust yourself that you have every right to assert your rights – the long term damage of avoiding confrontation can be devastating for your relationships and your health.

The analyser

The instinctive move of the analyser is to retreat and work out what is going on. Unlike the avoider the analyser isn’t kidding themselves the problem will go away. The analyser is likely to want to spend time working out what is the cause and how they should resolve. Some analysers will search out friends and colleagues to talk through the problem. Google and self-help books are other ways the analyser may approach ways of figuring out the cause and the solution.

Dangers of analysing; Thinking things through before approaching a resolution is sensible. However over analysing can be destructive. One persons retreat to work things out to another can appear moody and sulky. Some analysers don’t act as if anything is wrong so when they move on from analysing to discussion the other party can be caught unaware. Having worked it all out an analyser will start a difficult conversation with their mind already made up. Chances are the other party wont agree and the conflict may end up explosive.

How to resolve conflict if this is your style: Reflecting and working things out before diving in is good practice. However, don’t dwell on the analysis for too long and let the other side know there is a problem sooner rather than later. Be aware that withdrawing from others for prolonged periods of time isn’t healthy for relationships. If you do need more time to reflect let the other side know and touch base once in a while so the situation doesn’t become too distant and cold.

The confronter

Confronters waste no time jumping in and facing the challenge head on. Without thinking things through they have a sense of urgency to thrash things out and argue their point until things are resolved. Their language is typically direct, challenging and emotional. The goal is to solve the problem and find a resolution as soon as possible so they can move on to the next thing.

Dangers of confronting; Confronting head on without any reflection and thinking through the consequences can backfire. It is natural to feel emotional during conflict however trying to resolve conflict in a highly emotional state will come across as irrational and illogical. If the goal is to move quickly and resolve the problem head on confrontation isn’t the best way forward.

How to resolve conflict if this is your style: Think, reflect and try to understand the conflict from the other person’s perspective before addressing the problem. Also what your aim is from the conversation and the best and worst case scenarios. Choose your words carefully and give the other side an opportunity to speak.

5 types of ‘bad’ conflict consequences

1. Takes attention away from other important activities
2. Undermines morale or self-concept
3. Polarises people and reduces cooperation
4. Increases or sharpens difference
5. Leads to irresponsible and harmful behaviour, such as fighting, name-calling

Ten tips of how to have a good conflict?

1. Recognise signs of conflict early
2. Understand why this is a conflict for you? Is it about needs, values, goals or opinions?
3. Aim to work at resolving conflict sooner rather than later – before the red mist descends
4. Be clear, concise and choose your works carefully
5. Be aware of your conflict style especially the dangers of your style
6. Build authentic and honest relationships with people before conflicts arise
7. Accept you can’t change others only yourself
8. Help others develop understanding – not everyone is an expert communicator
9. Watch your body language during conflict
10. Be prepared to agree to disagree

Be the change that you want to see. Step into your leadership.


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