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5 Strategies for Handling Conflict

Updated: Oct 4, 2022

Whenever you are in a conflict, emotions come into play. Since emotions are experienced differently by everyone, it is important to be aware of your triggers and how you handle situations. There are three basic ways you will be expressing your emotions:

1. Mental: the way you think and process the information

2. Physical: how your body reacts to the information

3. Behavior: how you act to the information

For example, if you had a stressful conference call, you may:

1. Mental: start thinking of how to get out of your current job

2. Physical: you get a headache and become anxious

3. Behavior: you step back, leave, and go to the gym

Understanding your emotions is vital because there is an 80% chance, they will influence your response. If you feel you have a hard time controlling your emotional response, then I encourage you to read up on the SCARF® method through the "5 social triggers to Master as a Leader" article.

Conflicts arise when there are disagreements. Depending on the protagonists and the situation, each of the strategies can work for you. The Thomas-Kilmann model shows the five different ways to handle a conflict. Below we have taken the five strategies and mapped them out as decision trees.

They are:

1 Avoiding that the person exists. You simply stop interacting with the person because they are either irritating you or instigating you. When you withdraw, you are not helping the relationship, making it fester instead of resolving the tension. This may work if you and this person are in different places. But if you are in the same team or they report to you, then this method will aggravate you further. Not to mention the people around you both:

2 Accommodating is to give them what they want. You decide that yielding to their demand is going to make the situation better and so you become the bigger person by giving in. You may think that you have resolved the problem, and maybe you have if this was a one-off situation. But in some cases, this will encourage the person to resort to the same tactics in the future to get what they want:

3 Compromise is to find a middle ground where you give something up to come to a solution. You may not get everything you wanted in the resolution, but it is more important to resolve the situation than have it worsen. The only deterrent of this strategy is that no one comes out the winner so even though the decision is fair, no one is ecstatic about the outcome:

4 Compete is when you set out to win the argument and force your views onto the other person. This can be compared to a duel where one wins, and one loses. It is a black and white way of resolving the situation. Keep in mind, using this strategy may have you burn bridges with people, antagonizing them, or even start a feud:

5 Collaborate is when you decide to find a win-win situation, where both parties work in partnership to get to a joint solution. This is where you put your emotional differences aside and address the situation in a logical manner. Brainstorming is an effective way of collaborating where all possible outcomes are listed and then a decision is made with an outcome both parties feel is a win:

Many conflict resolution frameworks come out from the collaborating strategy. For example, Crucial Conversations, Courageous Conversations™, and CRD (Conflict Resolution Diagram) will have the following in common:

  • Active listening,

  • Understand both sides of the disagreement,

  • Take time to formulate a response,

  • Deliver a response,

  • Come to a win-win resolution.

If you want to learn more on conflict management using the Thomas-Kilmann model from one of the authors, visit their site:

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Want to read inspirational stories that make you think? go to our Anna & Dude series.

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