By Denisha Harris
And, we’re back! Last time I wrote, we talked about conflict – the ugly word that seems to be associated with a myriad of emotions. It is the twin sister of progress that comes in the form of challenge and resistance and always wants to break our stride when we are moving about making things happen for our families, careers, businesses, and service lives. But, conflict does not have to get us down or zap our energy. It can be a game changer that causes us to turn something bitter into something sweet, our lemons into lemonade!
The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument helps us understand what conflict looks like. It is an assessment that determines a person’s conflict style from most frequently used to least frequently used. So, are you more assertive or passive? Do you tend to strive for cooperation or do your interactions tend to be contentious? Many of us flip styles depending upon the setting (e.g. home or work) and even the people we are interacting with (e.g. close friend or a stranger); however, we each have tendencies that we default to. According to Thomas-Kilmann, our styles fall on a sort of XY axis of assertiveness and cooperativeness – the extent to which we want to satisfy our own needs verses our attempt to satisfy another’s. Therefore, the more one moves away from zero on the Y axis, the more assertive she is. The further a person moves from zero on the X axis, the more cooperative she is. A person who is high assertive, high cooperative is known as the “Collaborator” – she strives for a “Win-Win.” The opposite style is an “Avoider” – she is low assertive and also uncooperative because she decides not to engage at all. Other quadrants include: 1) The “Competitor” – high assertive, low cooperative and 2) The “Accommodator” – low assertive, high cooperative. Smack dab in the middle is The “Compromiser” – she falls in the middle of both the assertive and cooperative scales.
Just in looking at these, I am sure you are probably guessing where you fall on the spectrum. Great! Knowing who you are will help you determine how conflict affects you and how you respond to it. You can use this understanding to analyze the outcomes of the conflicts you engage in and how you can adjust your response to get the desired outcome. Perhaps being more collaborative will help produce a better outcome at home. Or sometimes being a competitor is necessary when fighting for something you believe in that you are not willing to compromise. And still, sometimes the juice is just not worth the squeeze so it is better to just walk away.
One of the key takeaways for me is the ability to identify the conflict styles of others. If I am engaging with someone who is a competitor, maybe I can use collaboration to meet her needs without forsaking my own. If a person is an avoider, I can try to engage her by making sure she understands that conflict does not always have to be a win-lose proposition.
When making lemonade, it takes the right amount of the bitter and sweet to make the refreshing drink we love. Take that same attitude with conflict resolution, and move forward knowing that a little bitterness can make it better