Creative conflict management
When we feel our self-esteem under attack, we respond by defending and protecting ourselves. Consciously or unconsciously – this is simply part of our nature. The result is conflict. Confrontation is a tense situation for all parties involved as each person behaves differently, each having his or her own conflict mode. It is difficult to react correctly to these many different styles of behaviour, yet an approach can nonetheless be learned. If we know the various modes of conflict, we are able to creatively deal with conflicts and can react appropriately.
From competition to avoidance
Most people rely on one or two conflict modes. They are natural extensions of our personality. There are five different modes:
1. Aggressive mode
Individuals acting in this conflict mode aim to achieve their personal aims. Personal relationships on the other hand play a subordinate role. Aggressive confrontation is applied to combat one’s counterpart. If a person in this mode gets his way, he or she enjoys the victory.
2. Accommodating mode
In contrast to the aggressive mode, personal relationships play a key role in this conflict mode. The need to achieve one’s own aims is, in contrast, insignificant. People utilizing this conflict behavior mode attempt to mediate conflicts and even give in in their demands to do so.
3. Compromising mode
People seeking compromise in conflict situations attach a great deal of importance to personal objectives as well as to personal relationships. They attempt to come to agreement with their counterpart.
4. Collaborating mode
One’s own objectives also play an important role in this mode as does maintaining the relationship. However, people in this mode seek no compromise. They seek solutions that satisfy all parties involved. They believe that conflicts can be solved through collaboration.
5. Avoiding mode
Avoiding conflicts is what those behaving in this mode desire the most. They believe that the unpleasantness that results from conflict is unjustified. For this reason they tend to psychological and physical avoidance when there are differences of opinion.
How D, I, S and C behave in conflict situations
Depending on what behavioural dimension we exhibit outside of conflict situations, our conflict behaviour can also be classified. Based on this, we see that individuals frequently employ a variety of conflict modes.
Dominant individuals employ power at first when under pressure; they are demanding, thus exhibiting aggressive behaviour. If, however, the pressure does not let up, they lose interest and withdraw. Influencing individuals attempt, in contrast, to avoid problems in conflict situations. They do not want to hurt anyone. If the conflict is not eliminated they give in and thus find themselves behaving in accommodating mode. This is not true for people with steady personality types. They initially give in or take a wait-and-see approach. Only when the pressure does not go away do they become pro-active. Cautious people in conflict situations also react slowly at first. They are careful and try not to get involved in the problems at hand. This means they behave in avoiding mode. If however the pressure continues, the cautious individual becomes demanding, takes action and switches to aggressive mode.
Reacting to conflict using the modes
There is, however, no right conflict behaviour or right mode. Depending on the situation, this or that behaviour type makes more or less sense. To cool down a situation high in emotional tension, the avoiding mode may be helpful. Aggressive behaviour by contrast would only aggravate the situation. On the other hand, the confrontation inherent in the aggressive mode could give new impetus to a stalled situation and thus move it forward. Avoidance in such case would not change the conflict situation.
Recognizing the different modes makes it easier for us to identify situations and to act appropriately. We can only change ourselves, our behaviour and our attitude to an individual and his conflict behaviour. Not the other person himself.