Everyone has at least one default approach to dealing with conflict, and often more than one. Below are the five most common conflict strategies.
1. I avoid you.
How Avoiders think: “I hate conflict so much that I’m willing to give up my goal and my relationship with you.”
2. I actively fight you.
How Fighters think: “I’m actually energized by conflict, and my goal is more important than my relationship with you.”
3. I passively undermine you.
How Passives think: “I fear conflict, but I cannot let you win either. So, I will just quietly resist you.”
4. I pacify you.
How Pacifiers think: “I value our relationship too much to risk losing it, so I will just give in or tell you what you want to hear.”
5. I confront and negotiate with you.
How Confronters think: “I care about our relationship, and yet my goal is too important to ignore. So, I will take the risk of confronting you and try to reach a peaceful resolution.”
Why should you know your conflict strategies? Because people often use the wrong one for the circumstances and therefore compound the problem. For example, if you are dealing with someone in your organization that you do not get along with, you may choose to try and avoid them, but avoidance doesn’t work well when you are in close proximity or on the same team. However, if you are in a large work environment, respectful avoidance may be a very reasonable approach if you do not need to be in relationship with the person. When it comes to conflict strategies, it’s NOT one size fits all.
Jay Desko is the Executive Director of The Center Consulting Group and serves on the Senior Leadership Team at Calvary Church in Souderton, PA. Jay brings experience in the areas of organizational assessment, leadership coaching, decision-making, and strategic questioning. Jay’s degrees include an M.Ed. in Instructional Systems Design from Pennsylvania State University and a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior and Leadership from The Union Institute.