Updated: May 16, 2020
Most of us have truly been testing our conflict management skills recently. We have been working in new ways, homeschooling children, spending endless hours sheltering-in-place with family members, and trying to maintain at least six feet of distance when we venture out into the world to obtain essential supplies. Even things as small as what to watch on television or who is going to cook dinner can be a source of conflict. Conflict can be defined as, “any situation in which the concerns of two people appear to be incompatible.” Gaining self-awareness and taking the time to fine-tune our conflict management skills has never been more important than in our current environment!
Remember the saying, “pick your battles”? This is a good reminder to focus your time and energy only on issues that are important to you, versus trivial things. What is the best way to manage conflict, you might ask? It depends. It depends on how much time you have, how important the issue is, how complex the issue is, and the importance of your relationship with the other person. According to Kilmann Diagnostics, there are five ways of managing conflict, based on the levels of cooperativeness and assertiveness applied in a specific situation:
1) Competing – high levels of assertiveness and low levels of cooperation. This may be the best option when the issue is important, and a quick decision is required. This mode is also preferred in crisis situations, such as getting people to evacuate a burning building.
2) Compromising – middle of the road for both assertiveness and cooperation. This can be used when the issue is important to both parties and time is limited. Both parties are required to give something up to meet in the middle and this can be looked at as a win/win or lose/lose situation.
3) Collaborating – high level of assertiveness and high level of cooperation. This is the preferred mode when the issue is complex, important to both parties, and sufficient time is allocated to the solution. When collaborating, trust must exist.
4) Avoiding – low level of assertiveness and low level of cooperation. This is a good option when the issue is unimportant to both parties. This mode can also be used to buy time, especially when tensions are high.
5) Accommodating – low level of assertiveness and high level of cooperation. This is a good option when the issue is more important to the other person and you want to create goodwill and build relationships with others. What goes around comes around, and when the issue is important to you, you will want to ask the other party to accommodate.
Perfecting your conflict management skills will take practice and reflection on past situations. However, this is a skill that will continue to serve you well at home and in the workplace. One thing to keep in mind when you encounter conflict is to always respect yourself and the other person. Learn about conflict management at NCET’s Virtual Biz Cafe on May 20th via Zoom. NCET is a member-supported nonprofit organization that produces educational and networking events to help people explore business and technology. More info at NCETcafe.org.