What Your Conflict Resolution Strategy Reveals about You

Parties to a conflict are concerned about how the outcome of it will affect their interests. However, you may also be concerned about the outcome of the conflict on the other party.

This could be for a number of reasons. You may have common interests such as wishing to maintain a commercial relationship after the dispute; you may have children in common or need the other’s cooperation in order to bring about a certain outcome.

Strategies

How you deal with conflict reveals the extent of your concern for your own interests and others and will influence how you approach it.[1]

Four strategies have been identified:

  • Contending;
  • Problem Solving;
  • Inaction;
  • Yielding.

Contending

This approach is about dominating the opposing party. If you intend to use this approach, it is because you do not care about the consequences of the conflict for the other and are only concerned with what you can get out of it. You may use threats or punitive actions.

Yielding

You give in easily and allow the other to win because you are most concerned with the effect of the conflict outcome on the other party.

Inaction

This is about doing nothing and avoiding confrontation all together. You may be silent or simply avoiding the situation entirely and you are indifferent about the outcome of the conflict to any of the parties.

Problem Solving

Both parties want mutually beneficial and collaborative solutions and are able to create them from joint discussions.

Compromise?

Pruitt and Rubin (1986) do not believe that this is a viable strategy to conflict resolution because you are half-heartedly trying to satisfy the other party’s wishes in order to obtain a better result for yourself. However, academics disagree about its viability as a strategy.

Is one better than the other?

No. The type of conflict and the factors which influence it such as your relationship with the other party, your resources, the strength of your position and the available options you have in resolving it will dictate the strategy you adopt.

Think about this situation. After a long, hard day, your toddler starts screaming at you because he doesn’t want to brush his teeth before bedtime. There’s no reason for it, your logic makes no sense to him and your energy levels are depleted so you just give in.

Is this an appropriate strategy?

A man walking on the other side of the road starts shouting at you. He’s obviously aggressive and drunk and seems intent on having an argument with you.

What would you do?

In a more professional setting, you should consider the circumstances of the conflict and decide how the approaches above might work out for you and your opponent. Remember, your strategies reveal how you feel about the opposing party, be careful what you communicate!


[1] Dean G. Pruitt, Jeffrey Z. Rubin, and Sung H. Kim, Social Conflict: Escalation, Stalemate and Settlement (2nd ed., New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies, 1994)

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