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How to Identify and Improve Your Conflict Management Style

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Men shaking hands in their conflict management style

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Summary: What comes to mind when you hear “conflict management”? Work? Parenting? All of the above? Discover how it can help maintain harmony in your life.

Conflicts happen all the time — it’s an inevitable part of life. However, the question isn’t whether or not you’ll experience it. Rather, it’s about how you handle it.

That’s what conflict management is all about, really. Whether it’s an argument between people, a clash of ideas, or a crisis with oneself, it’s a skill that can help you navigate disagreements before it escalates into something irretrievable. 

Let’s take a closer look at it:

In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity,” as Albert Einstein once said. And that opportunity when there’s conflict is knowing how to manage it.

What Is Conflict Management?

Conflict happens when there’s a serious argument or disagreement between two sides, be it people or ideas. And conflict management is the ability to identify and navigate that disagreement in an efficient, effective, and fair way.

It’s a buzzword that’s often heard in a business context, but not limited to it. It can also be used in personal situations, like a couple, a parent and their child, or friends.

In fact, studies show that unresolved conflict can seriously impact one’s health. One research paper reported that they’re known to cause “higher levels of stress, behavioral problems in children, and may lead to mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.

The thing is, we all have our own specific wants, needs, ideas, and opinions that we project onto others. At times, they mesh well with the people around us. Other times, they don’t…and that’s where tensions may arise.

Someone who understands the mechanics of it can navigate arguments and disagreements among others with competence and care. Everyone has their own approach to conflict management, and identifying yours may help you become a better mediator.

Conflict management vs. conflict resolution

Other than having a common word in their name, conflict management is not conflict resolution. Here’s where they differ:

  • Conflict management is the fair navigation of a dispute. It’s the recognition that conflict is inevitable but that it can be good so long as it is handled appropriately, efficiently, and skillfully.
  • Conflict resolution, on the other hand, involves reducing or terminating one. In fact, oftentimes, it seeks to avoid the potential for disagreements to arise in the first place.

Here’s the thing: not all forms of conflict are bad. In fact, some are quite beneficial.

Why? Simply, it allows people to understand another person’s wants and needs better. It’s an opportunity for growth, expansion, and improvement.

Coworkers discussing conflict management in the workplace

5 Conflict Management Styles

There are five different styles of conflict management, according to the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument:

1. Accommodating

People who are interested in preserving peace and maintaining the most harmonious circumstances possible, especially when it comes to calming an angry person, often adopt an accommodating conflict management style. 

This method involves a high degree of cooperation, although it often comes at the expense of the mediator. They are willing to sacrifice their own preferences and needs for the concerns of others.

2. Avoiding

The avoidance conflict management style is exactly what it sounds like — when the person should or could resolve a conflict (like a manager or parent) simply ignores that the dispute is underway.

This strategy can be effective when the conflict is exceedingly trivial, and to pursue a solution would ultimately be time-consuming and wasteful. However, it is important to be aware that this strategy can backfire fairly quickly on the arbitrator.

Conflicts are best managed when addressed quickly and competently.

3. Compromising

Compromising is a conflict management style that seeks to give both parties part of what they want. When a solution for confrontation simply can’t be found, then a compromising strategy may work best.

Some identify this style as a “lose-lose” approach, but if both parties can walk away satisfied that at least some of their needs have been met, the solution is not fruitless.

A compromise shouldn’t be the first approach in managing conflict, but it may be an effective last resort to help diffuse tension. This is the classic “agree to disagree” arrangement.

4. Competing

The competing conflict management style is an aggressive, action-driven approach that provides one party with what they want while the other party does not get what they want.

Often called the “win-lose” approach, this style results in one party meeting their wants and needs while the other does not. This strategy is not very cooperative. 

Unfortunately, it is nurtured in many of us from an early age: the idea that we must compete and beat others to get what we want.

Solutions can be found outside the realm of competition. This strategy may seem effective in the short term but can foster animosity, bitterness, and further aggression down the line.

5. Collaborating

Using a collaborative conflict management style, the mediator seeks to find a solution that entirely satisfies both parties.

This is a step up from compromisation and involves a level of emotional intelligence. Exploring alternative ideas, solutions, and discussions can bolster and encourage empathy, honesty, and compassion for all those involved.

Often called the “win-win” strategy, if used effectively, this can be a powerful and practical problem-solving style.

Young men shaking hands as a way to show conflict management

Which Conflict Management Style Is Right for You?

People naturally gravitate toward different styles depending on their personalities.

Perhaps conflict makes you uncomfortable, and you’d prefer to avoid it. Or maybe conflict instigates a competitive streak in you, and once involved, you want to conquer your adversaries at all costs.

Here are some common conflict management examples to demonstrate the different styles:

  1. Accommodating: You and your ex agreed on parallel parenting. However, there’s a clash in both of your schedules. You accommodate to avoid any arguments.
  1. Avoiding: You see two strangers on the street in a shouting match. You decide to stay out of it — not your monkey, not your zoo.
  1. Compromising: Your children are at each other’s throats. You sit them both down and try to work out a solution where everyone wins.
  1. Competing: In a team meeting, you raise a concern with your boss about a mistake in your team’s report. They acknowledge your concern with a promise to look at it, but quickly move on to the next subject.
  1. Collaborating: You and your teammate have opposing ideas on how best to approach an upcoming project. Using your communication skills, you suggest working together to come up with a plan that integrates both of your ideas.

It’s up to you to decide which conflict management style best suits your preferences. It’s good to play to your strengths, but it’s also beneficial to opt for approaches you wouldn’t usually select.

Keep in mind that different forms of conflict will call for different methods. 

Where in one situation, only a compromise can be effectively met, in another, you may find that a collaborative approach is most beneficial.

Showing compassion as a conflict management strategy

Conflict Management Strategies: 5 Tips From Mindvalley Trainers

As studies have shown, time and time again, unresolved conflict comes at a huge cost. As mentioned, it can have a negative impact on one’s well-being. And when it comes to business, it can lead to a financial strain — for example, a CPP study found that workplace conflict costs $359 billion in paid hours, meaning that 2.8 hours per week is wasted on disputes.

So developing conflict management skills can do wonders for your relationships, whether personal or business. Here are five strategies you can try with tips from Mindvalley trainers.

1. Be accountable for your actions

Let’s say you’re pitching an important deck for a big account. Your client sits with their arms folded, yawning uncontrollably, and keeps looking down at their lap throughout the whole thing. You read their body language to be distant and uninterested. And you call them out on it.

Little did you know that your client had a long night because they’re a new parent and their baby had been up all night crying. And because they were so tired, they ran out the door without their morning cup of coffee and a sweater. So they showed up at your meeting exhausted, sleepy, and cold (since your office is notoriously known to crank its air conditioner). 

So what do you do now? “If you created the conflict, take accountability,” advises Radha Agrawal, CEO and co-founder of Daybreaker and trainer of Mindvalley’s Build Your Dream Community Quest. It’s a great way to regain trust and build rapport with the other person.

2. Adopt a care-frontation approach

“Care-frontation” — it’s what Lisa Nichols, founder of Motivating the Masses and trainer of Minvalley’s Speak and Inspire Quest, suggests to use to deal with confrontation. She defines it as “the intention of completing the conversation with the relationship still intact.

It allows you to honor and respect the person you’re speaking to, be it your spouse, children, family members, friends, strangers on the streets, and so on. Additionally, it allows you to request that your (or their) needs be addressed and approach the conflict with compassion and kindness.

Care-frontation dismantles the “I’m right, you’re wrong” mindset and, instead, encourages you to use your communication skills to empower connection.

3. Use the STAR pact method

Relationships have their messy moments and when things get heated, it’s always a good idea to find a way to manage. Enter the STAR pact method, created by Donna Eden and David Feinstein, renowned energy healers and trainers of Mindvalley’s The Energies of Love Quest, to “deal with situations where our disagreements were so intense that we could make no progress in resolving the issue at hand.

The STAR pact goes like this:

  • S: Stop.
  • T: Tap acupuncture points or use other energy techniques to recenter yourself.
  • A: Attune and reconnect energetically.
  • R: Resolve issues with shared appreciation and communication.

What makes this method unique is the two middle steps, T and A. They encourage you to recenter yourself before reconnecting with the other person energetically — both done before you return to the escalated conversation.

As Donna adds, “The STAR pact is an emergency procedure that redirects you and your energy toward a harmonious resolution when either of you has realized that you’re headed toward a harsh interchange.

4. Reframe your current reality

It’s all about your mindset — that’s common advice and with good reason. The narrative you give a situation leads to how you act or react.

For example, a divorce can conjure up a lot of emotions like anger, resentment, frustration, and so on. This can undoubtedly lead to conflict. However, “you have the ability to reframe any situation which you are confronting,” explains Srikumar Rao, founder of The Rao Institute and trainer of Mindvalley’s The Quest for Personal Mastery program.

He explains that there are different ways to look at one situation, and “when you use the other way of looking at [the situation], the problem dissolves.

Listen to more of Srikumar’s wisdom:

How to Avoid Conflict In Family by Reframing | Srikumar Rao

5. Create a paper log (if you’re an employer)

When you’re running a business and letting employees in, you open yourself to a certain amount of risk. Don’t fret, though; that’s no reason to run for the hills. 

Instead, when it comes to conflict management in the workplace, it’s important to create a paper log. It helps protect you and your business from escalated conflict (like getting sued).

Courts tend to lean in favor of the employee, as Eric Edmeades, international entrepreneur and business mentor, explains in his Business Freedom Blueprint Quest on Mindvalley. The reason? “Because the responsibility to manage the relationship [between employees and employer] lies on behalf of the employer.

Without any documentation, it’ll end up as a “he said, she said” disagreement. So it’s important to create a paper log — read: paper because they’re impossible to fake in the same way digital ones are — to track your relationship with your employees.

Rise Above the Conflict

Conflict is inevitable, but combat is optional,” as the Max Lucado quote goes. And how truly apt it is.

When you know how to navigate around and through conflicts, you have the one up on most people. And if you want to learn how to do so, you can learn from the experts at Mindvalley. From Radha Agrawal to Lisa Nichols to Donna Eden and David Feinstein to Srikumar Rao to Eric Edmeades, and more, you can find tons of resources to level up not only your conflict management skills, but discover how to rise above the disagreements in the first place. 

You can preview lessons from their quests when you sign up for a Mindvalley account for free. What’s more, you’ll have access to the vast library of meditations so that whenever a conflict pops up, you can meditate and find your calm before heading out to manage it.

Mastering this skill is a step toward your greatness. So welcome in.

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Written by

Tatiana Azman

Tatiana Azman is the SEO content editor for Mindvalley and a certified life coach. She brings a wealth of experience in writing and storytelling to her work, honed through her background in journalism. Drawing on her years in spa and wellness and having gone through a cancer experience, she's constantly on the lookout for natural, effective ways that help with one's overall well-being.
Picture of Tatiana Azman

Tatiana Azman

Tatiana Azman is the SEO content editor for Mindvalley and a certified life coach. She brings a wealth of experience in writing and storytelling to her work, honed through her background in journalism. Drawing on her years in spa and wellness and having gone through a cancer experience, she's constantly on the lookout for natural, effective ways that help with one's overall well-being.

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