Jan 082013

Are you flexible in the method you use to handle conflict?

Conflict is inevitable, that’s the bad news. The good news is that no meaningful change can take place without it, making it a powerful motivator for change. Therefore, it is important for us to learn the basics of conflict so when we face it, we can make it constructive instead of destructive.

We all have goals and expectations that define our personal agendas. When our agenda is the most important, we can tend to become very assertive. Other times, when it is not as important, we have no problem backing off or not pursuing it, or pursuing it less aggressively.

There are also different ways to deal with conflict. Knowing when to use each one is important. The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI), defines five ways we handle conflict. It measures the relative frequency with which we use the five modes, which are:

  • Competing – (My way or the highway)
  • Collaborating – (The uniter)
  • Compromising – (Let’s make a deal)
  • Avoiding – (I’ll think about it tomorrow)
  • Accommodating – (I’ll go along to get along)

Each has its strengths and weaknesses. When we manage each one well, we can effectively manage conflict. We can;t always say, “We’re doing it my way,” which is the competing mode. Sometimes we have to back off and use a different behavior. Flexibility should be our goal, so we can learn when and how to use each style appropriately.

The challenge is that most of us get good at or favor one or two styles, and tend to use them or rely on them in all circumstances. Much of this is learned when we are children. Therefore, it is important that we develop skills in all of the styles, to be able to use the one that is appropriate and most effective in a given situation.

Making good choices begins with understanding each style’s strength, and being aware of its limits. We should display and respect each style, in order to maintain healthy and successful human relationships.

The key is not only to learn our own method of handling conflict, but to improve on how to read the key attributes of a conflict situation; how to choose and enact different conflict modes, and to learn how to engender more trust and supportive communication in both our personal and work life.

The TKI instrument is the assessment used in the Conflict Module of the Ascending Leader’s ProgramTM. Participants learn which conflict mode they might be using too much, usually out of habit, and which ones they might be using too little.

Contact me to learn more about the Ascending Leader’s ProgramTM, and how it can help develop leaders in your organization.

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