I recently conducted a negotiation/mediation training for members of the military who were working with both military and civilians from other countries. The idea was to explore how to negotiate and even mediate when one did to have authority to order an outcome. One aspect of this training considered conflict resolution styles.
Much has been written and researched in this regard with early work completed by Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann in what became know as the Thomas Kilmann Inventory of conflict styles. The identified styles include – Avoid, Accommodate, Compromise, Collaborate, and Compete. The point of the inventory and my use in a training is to introduce the idea that we have these styles and can choose one or more to match a given situation.
Thus, each style is the perfect choice depending on the situation and your goals. For example, if you have time, relationships are important, you want to build a team, and generate full buy in on a decision, then collaboration would fit as your choice. On the other hand, if the issue is not that important to you, but important to another, and you are okay with the choice, then accommodating will likely work. And, while the most popular form of conflict resolution is to Avoid, it is not always the best choice. Again, sometimes it is – just not always.
In the training I referenced, we discussed how each conflict resolution style could indeed fit various situations and that the key was to step back, analyze the situation, and think through which style or even a combination of styles worked best. The idea is that not every problem or conflict is a nail with only a hammer in sight. Finding the right tool, the right style will help you resolve conflicts.
Make the right choice – whichever one it is.