Conflict resolution models are a helpful tool when the inevitable conflict in a relationship shows up. Conflict is a part of everyday life, and there are a variety of ways that people deal with conflict. Each strategy for resolving conflict will have strengths and weaknesses, and no one model will perfectly resolve every conflict.
Evaluating the situation and determining which model will produce the desired result is a skill few people have mastered. Still, it is a worthy goal when dealing with conflict regularly. Understanding each strategy or model can be crucial in mastering the skill and moving toward a method to resolve conflict effectively.
This article will explore the models and strategies people have been using to resolve conflict for as long as humans have had conflict. In discussing each strategy, this article will provide an example and analysis of situations where the style or strategy may be the most useful. In doing so, we hope to aid readers in analyzing conflicts and help create conflict resolution on a larger scale.
Defining Conflict Resolution Strategies:
A conflict resolution strategy or model is how a person approaches conflict and attempts to find a way to resolve it. Conflict resolution strategy can be good or bad at resolving conflict depending on the type of conflict the parties involved are facing and how they seek to resolve the conflict. Conflict resolution strategies have several key components critical to understanding conflict resolution. These components include:
- Roles: Each conflict resolution strategy will involve each party taking on specific roles. These roles can be the same or similar for both parties, or they can be very different from each other. Focusing on the roles that will need to be filed and how they are filed can result in differing strategies for conflict.
- Communication: Each strategy will have a preferred method of communication when talking about the conflict. Some strategies will avoid discussing the conflict, while others will talk about the conflict to the point of exhaustion. Finding a communication style that works for a given conflict and situation is key to resolving conflict effectively.
- Priorities: Each conflict resolution strategy will have a different priority regarding the conflict. Some will stop at nothing to resolve the conflict, while others will set their own needs aside to appease the other party. Recognizing important priorities and finding a way to achieve these can help resolve conflicts.
- Needs: Each conflict style will place different importance on the needs of either party. Some strategies completely ignore the opposition’s needs, while others forget their own. Understanding the importance of each party’s needs and how they fit into the priorities that have been identified can be a key to resolving conflict.
Conflict resolution strategies will evaluate these components, along with others, to create a strategy for conflict that helps resolve conflict according to priorities, needs, and communication. There are five main strategies for resolving conflict—accommodating, avoiding, competing, compromising, and collaborating.
The accommodating strategy is a situation where one party gives up their needs and priorities for the benefit of the other. This accommodation can come about for a few reasons, such as an admission that one was wrong or to appease to avoid conflict moving further. This type of resolution strategy will focus on the needs of one party over the other.
- Roles: In an accommodating model, the parties will take on the role of giver and taker. One party will give of their own needs for the other to take everything that they need.
- Communication: Accommodating resolution will focus on a lack of assertiveness from the giving party and assertiveness from the other.
- Priorities: Depending on the reason that one party is accommodating, the priorities for this strategy will usually be to keep or restore harmony in the relationship or remedy a wrong. The taking party will often be looking to gain as much as possible.
- Needs: The giving party will ignore or discount their own needs to allow the taking party’s needs to be the focus.
This strategy can be incredibly beneficial if there is a relationship that one party is seeking to preserve. This preservation is more important to them than the way the conflict is resolved. However, this strategy can be determinantal when taken advantage of, leaving issues unresolved between the parties.
The avoiding strategy is a solution where one or both parties avoid discussing the conflict until it is forgotten or resolved. The reasons for avoidance may be a fear of the conflict or the result. Still, it will always end up in the parties avoiding resolving the conflict together. This is because it focuses on avoidance rather than resolution.
- Roles: Depending on the number of parties that are avoided, there can be a variety of roles. However, there will always be at least one avoider. The other party may also be avoiding the conflict or pushing for a resolution to no avail.
- Communication: When parties work from an avoidance model, there is no communication about the conflict. They choose not to engage with the conflict in any meaningful way. Usually, one or both parties will lack assertiveness.
- Priorities: The priorities of an avoidant party are to place their need to remove themselves from the discomfort of conflict and replace it with something else. It outweighs any resolution from the parties.
- Needs: The need of the avoidant parties will be to avoid the conflict, regardless of the other person’s needs.
This strategy is rarely helpful, as it often leaves issues unresolved at the end of the day.
However, it can be a strategy that works when one party tries to push and control the situation, and the other party needs to buy some time. It can also be helpful if one party needs to prioritize the safety of themselves or their families over how they would like the conflict to be resolved.
Competing is a strategy for conflict resolution that sees the goal as a prize to be won rather than a way to work together. This can be because the goals of one party are necessary for their wellbeing or because the goal is worth fighting for. This style focuses on one’s desires at the expense of the other.
- Roles: In a competing strategy, at least one of the parties is the competitor or the person looking at the goals of resolution as a prize to be won. The other party can also be competing or can be accommodating to the requests.
- Communication: Communication in a competitive negotiation may be difficult or argumentative, especially if the parties are competing. In other situations, it can result in the competing party dominating the conversation. The competing party will be assertive in their demands.
- Priorities: In a competitive conflict resolution strategy, the competing parties only want to win, even if that means giving up needs if necessary to win.
- Needs: The needs of the competing party come secondary to the need to be perceived as the winner.
Competing can be a helpful model when there is a contentious conflict or a need to assert some power in a relationship. However, competing will rarely let the parties leave the negotiation table or the resolution feelings fully happy with their resolution. It can also exclude wonderful ideas at the expense of needing to be the winner.
Compromising models of conflict resolution will often result when two competitive parties go up against each other. The competitive nature will often cause one or both parties to compromise on the issues to save the relationship or make headway in resolution. This type of resolution will allow the parties some wins while losing out on others.
- Roles: In a compromising method, the parties will often trade roles. At any moment, one party may be a taker and the other a giver. This is similar to the accommodating style, but the parties will swap roles throughout the resolution.
- Communication: In this model, both parties will be assertive and cooperative. Unlike competitiveness, here the parties will attempt to give and take from each other.
- Priorities: In a compromising strategy, the parties will often see a resolution as the ultimate goal and will give up their own needs to resolve.
- Needs: The needs of both parties will be honored, but they may have to give for the other to fill a need.
Compromising style may work if a fast and straightforward resolution is necessary. For example, suppose the parties need a resolution during a time crunch. In that case, they can exchange compromises back and forth until they have resolved the conflict.
However, it can often leave parties unsatisfied with the result because they had to give more than they had hoped.
Collaboration is a strategy for conflict resolution that seeks to provide the best possible solution to everyone involved. This can happen through various conflict resolution mechanisms, but it will most frequently produce beneficial and lasting results. This model uses the needs and interests of each party to form a resolution that fully and complexly resolves the issue.
- Roles: In a collaborative resolution structure, the parties will take on similar roles as collaborators. They work with each other to secure the needs of each party.
- Communication: The focus of communication here is collaboration. The parties will be assertive with what they need while focusing on the collaboration of the process.
- Priorities: Under a collaborative approach, the parties’ priorities will be to find the best resolution possible to resolve all issues.
- Needs: Each party will focus on their own and the other party’s needs. They will also look at unspoken needs or interests to achieve the desired result.
Collaborative conflict resolution is most often a good choice for conflict resolution. It seeks to identify interests and find a solution everyone can get on board with, often resulting in a well-rounded resolution. However, it may not be the best option in a power imbalance or other structure because it may not be safe for one party to negotiate effectively with the other.
Even the best method may sometimes fail, meaning each conflict is unique. Therefore, finding a way to work through solutions with others is essential. Knowing how and when a conflict should be solved starts with understanding the different approaches to conflict.
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