This guide is here to help explain our approach to dealing with conflict. We don’t always have to act the same way in every scenario. In fact, doing this may prevent the desired outcome. You might not get it right first time and that’s okay, that’s how we learn and grow.
As you read through the conflict styles below, have a think about when you might default to these styles. You will probably do all of these at different times and there are advantages and disadvantages to both. Is there one that you default to more often?
As we go through the different conflict styles, let’s use the following scenario as an example, and take a look at how each conflict style might deal with it:
SCENARIO: You’ve asked your child to come off the computer for dinner but they don’t want to stop playing games with their friends.
This conflict style completely avoids the conflict and doesn’t engage with the issue.
How the avoider would deal with our computer game scenario:
If your child doesn’t come off the computer when you’ve asked them to, you don’t say anything. You just let them come down when they want to, this avoids any conflict.
You may start to have the discussion, but if there is resistance, then you find it’s probably easier if you do the task yourself.
Similarly to The Avoider, sometimes it is not the right time to broach the subject so accommodating might come in handy. However, it is important not to use this technique too often. People may come to expect you to ask them to do something and know that you yourself will ultimately end up doing what you’ve asked them to do.
How the accommodator would deal with our computer game scenario:
You ask your child to come down several times but they don’t listen and stay on the computer. You end up taking their dinner up to them.
This conflict style takes charge and sets the rules without exception.
How The Authoritarian would deal with our computer game scenario:
You ask your child to come down, when they don’t want to, you turn the Wi-Fi off so they are forced to stop playing their games.
this conflict style is all about negotiation, to meet in a place that you are both mostly happy with. All parties will have to give a little and will gain a little.
How The Compromiser would deal with our computer game scenario:
When they don’t want to come off the computer, you both agree to 10 more minutes playing and then they will come down for dinner.
Joint Problem Solving (JPS) is the technique of working together, to come to a solution that you are both happy with. It may sound similar to compromise; however, it is important with JPS that you both genuinely feel happy with the solution you have come up with. It’s key to start by asking each other’s point of view and why you feel a certain way, really listening to each other. It’s important that you genuinely think it’s fair.
Creating a contract together can be a useful tool to keep you both accountable. Make sure you write out what you are agreeing to, and both of you should sign it to say you agree.
Sign and hang the contract somewhere where you can both see it and be reminded of what you have agreed to do. Re-visit the contract after a short while or if the contract is broken to see if it needs tweaking a little or if you’re both still happy with it.
How Joint Problem Solving would handle our computer game scenario:
You both agree in advance what time your child will come down for dinner. This is a time that you are both happy with. You have agreed the consequences if this does not happen.
It might not work first time and that’s okay. It’s normal to have to come back, reflect and tweak the agreement a little. Remember different styles can be useful in different situations.