There are several
STYLES OF CONFLICT MANAGEMENT
that people use, some of which
are more effective than others.
COMPETING - An individual pursues his/her own concerns at the other person’s
expense. This is a power-oriented mode, in which one uses whatever power seems
appropriate to win one’s own position -- one’s ability to argue, one’s rank,
economic sanctions. Competing might mean “standing up for your rights,”
defending a position which you believe correct, or simply trying to win.
ACCOMMODATING - The opposite of competing. When accommodating, an individual
neglects his/her own concerns to satisfy the concerns of the other person; there
is an element of self-sacrifice in this mode. Accommodating might take the form
of selfless generosity or charity, obeying another person’s orders when one
would prefer not to, or yielding to another’s point of view.
AVOIDING - The individual does not immediately pursue his/her own concerns or
those of the other person. S/he does not address the conflict. Avoiding might
take the form of diplomatically sidestepping an issue, postponing an issue until
a better time, or simply withdrawing from a threatening situation.
COMPROMISING - The objective is to find some expedient, mutually acceptable
solution which partially satisfies both parties. It falls on a middle ground
between competing and accommodating. Compromising gives up more than competing
but less than accommodating. Likewise, it addresses an issue more directly than
avoiding, but doesn’t explore it in as much depth as collaborating. Compromising
might mean splitting the difference, exchanging concessions, or seeking a quick
COLLABORATING - The opposite of avoiding. collaborating involves an attempt to
work with the other person to find some solution which fully satisfies the
concerns of both persons. It means digging into an issue to identify the
underlying concerns of the two individuals and to find a solution which meets
both sets of concerns. This is clearly the most effective approach of conflict
management. Specifically it will produce the following results:
1. Both sides win
3. Mutual respect
4. Both parties feel enriched rather than belittled
5. Continuing effort of both parties
HOW TO USE THE COLLABORATING APPROACH (WIN-WIN NEGOTIATION) TO DEAL WITH
CONFLICT IN STUDENT ORGANIZATIONS.
is the starting point
determining the nature
of the conflict.
Is the issue a value conflict? It is extremely difficult to negotiate when the
conflict is in the philosophical arena. An example: a dispute over whether
alcohol should be prohibited in a fundraising dance.
Is the issue a difference of expectations of each other? Understanding this type
of conflict lies in the fact that each of us have different expectations which
grow out of our experiences with the organization. Therefore, when we interact
with others whose expectations have grown out of their own unique experiences
with the organization, conflict arises.
INITIATION is the second step
The most effective way to confront another in a conflict situation is to state
the tangible effect the conflict has on you. Example: “We have a concern in our
committee. Due to your stand on keeping a low budget for the officer transition
retreat, we are unable to have the retreat off campus, which is the desire of
ACTIVE LISTENING is the third step
Negotiators must be capable of hearing the other’s point of view.
• While listening, do not think about what to reply in order to persuade.
• Argument-provoking replies should be avoided.
• Active listening involves paraphrasing or restating what the other says. Idea
or content should be considered as well as feeling.
PROBLEM-SOLVING is the final step
• Clarify the problem -- after the above steps, each party should have a clear
idea about what is the tangible issue.
• Talk about what’s needed/wanted (be clear on facts and information).
• Generate a list of possible solutions. While doing this, let go of the
solutions that you thought you had. Be creative! The best negotiator makes the
other side feel good.
• Start by thinking, “How can I make the other side happy?”.
• Decide together on the best solution acceptable to all parties. Use consensus
decision making skills. Don’t try to persuade or coerce.
• Plan the implementation of the solution. Make assignments of the who, what,
where, when and how.
• Plan an evaluation or review of the solution after a specified period of time.
All five styles of conflict management obviously have advantages and
disadvantages. When dealing with conflict in personal relationships, any of
these types may be useful and necessary in certain situations. The last style,
collaboration, however, is highly recommended for dealing with
conflict in student organizations. It has the most promise of
resulting in something satisfactory to both parties. People often
feel proud of themselves, and feel a sense of personal power when they use this method. It’s a sign of integrity and
self-confidence when one is able to use this method with patience regardless of
how difficult the situation may be.
Addressing conflict in a proactive way is a skill. Positive Actions for Resolution.
Increase Personal Confidence – understanding how to confront interpersonal
conflict can help you be more assertive.
Sharpen social skills
The communication process for addressing conflict can be
used in a variety of social settings.
Find resolutions – learning how to address conflict will enhance communication
and lead to resolutions in a non-threatening way.
If your intent is to find an amicable agreement, you will need to suspend
personal judgments of your mentoring partner. It is best if you can keep an open
mind during your discussions and not project an attitude of condescension. You
do not have to agree with your partner’s position, but you must acknowledge its
legitimacy and agree to disagree, or at least disagree in an agreeable way. Use
“I” statements since they describe your thoughts and feelings, instead of “You”
statements, which carry a judgmental tone that can be misunderstood as censure.
Communicating assertively means expressing your needs clearly, directly and in a
• Clear – Unmistakable messages; body language matches verbal messages.
• Direct – Timely communication focused on your needs and delivered to the right
Balanced – Respecting the needs, rights and limitations of yourself and others.
It is best to know what it is that you intend to convey so you can articulate
your message as plainly as possible. Be specific and avoid speaking in
generalities. Resist the urge to drag a negative past into the present
situation; reference present circumstances without rehashing previous
misgivings. Know the facts surrounding the situation and what you want out of
the conversation before you engage it.
Avoid the appearance of haughtiness by refraining from stating opinion as fact.
Be careful not to speak down to or insult the intelligence of your mentoring
partner. Be patient and don’t interrupt or project anxiety by hurrying the
conversation to a conclusion. Stay calm and avoid “one up” hostile messages or
immediate inappropriate responses (i.e., “Oh yeah? Well you…”). If things do get
heated, be willing to call a time out.
Focus Your Discussion
Clarify points of agreement before dealing with disagreements. By doing this you
build a common ground of understanding, save discussion time, and locate the
focus for your discussion. It is also best if you focus on one issue at a time.
If compounding or related issues come up during your discussion, you can
identify them and agree to discuss them after you have completely discussed the
• By addressing your conflict with these principles, you should be able to
create a positive and healthy environment.