There are five main styles in the management of conflicts. None of these five can be said to be the right thing at all times.

They each fit under certain circumstances, but may be inappropriate or ineffective in others. We can illustrate the styles with the following model.

Illustration of five conflict styles

What mainly characterizes the different styles is described below.

To Adapt or Mitigate

I hold the relationship with the other / the others as more important than my goal.

"To mitigate" is to blur the differences in perceptions that exist among individuals while emphasizing common interests. The differences are not openly acknowledged. When we "adapt" an individual neglects his own interests to satisfy the other person's needs. There is an element of "sacrificing themselves" in this style.

"Adapting" may take the form of giving in to others' views; selfish generosity or to meet the needs of others when you prefer to do so. One pitfall of this style is that the different views are likely to reappear.

As with avoiding conflict, which is described below, this style is useful when looking for a solution in the short term and in those situations where you are looking for temporary solutions.

To Avoid or Evade

I choose to neither give priority to working towards my goal or to the relationship to others.

The individual is not talking about his own position or that which the other person has. The conflict is ignored or suppressed. Those who are involved in the conflict avoid each other or hold back their emotions and their perceptions.

This may take the form of putting the issue to the side, postponing tackling the conflict to a later, better time, or to pull away from a threatening situation. A distinctive feature is that the conflict will never be completely solved. Instead the conflict is hidden or are latent and reappears if the two parties regularly come into contact with each other.

Compromise

I get partly what I want and to a certain degree I take into account the relationship to others.

The aim of the compromise is to find a mutually acceptable solution that partially satisfies both partners. It is required that each party gives up something while he gets a few goals or needs met. No person "loses", no person "wins".

Compromise may involve a fragmentation of the differences, to exchange benefits or to quickly find a middle position.

To Cooperate or to Solve Problems

I work both on my goal and the relationship to others, while making sure that both of these are handled in a satisfactory manner.

Solving problems is a "win-win" way in conflict resolution. The two parties meet to discuss their similarities and differences of opinion. Both are equally responsible for identifying the underlying needs of both parties and to find alternatives that satisfy them.

To cooperate may take the form of clarifying the different views and to learn from each other. It leads to some problems being solved which would otherwise have led to a conflict. It also means finding creative solutions to problems between different individuals.


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