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Practice Makes Perfect in Conflict-Handling Situations

Practice Makes Perfect in Conflict-Handling Situations

Written by Pamela Valencia, Solutions Consultant, CPP Professional Services

How do you develop skill in recognizing which TKI conflict mode or modes are appropriate for a given situation? It’s a two-step process: assess the situation, then practice using the TKI conflict mode that makes the most sense.


The next time you are watching a movie or attending a meeting (at which the topic or decision is important), take a moment to observe what is happening through a TKI lens. You will see a back-and-forth flow and ebb of different styles and modes. A great example of conflict management appears in the film Apollo 13. There is a clip on YouTube—“Failure is Not an Option”—that illustrates several conflict modes. One of the engineers is using the competing mode effectively (when you know you are right). The other uses accommodating as he acquiesces to another’s persuasion, then shifts his style to collaborating as he attempts to merge insights from diverse perspectives.


Let’s take a look at the five modes and when they are likely to be most effective.


Competing is best used when you know you are right and a decision needs to be made (even though it may be an unpopular course of action). This mode is the one least concerned with relationships, so use it sparingly. It requires the user to have skills in being persuasive, being fair, and balancing tough-mindedness with support. To be persuasive, it’s important to explain your motives, to be specific and credible. If these skills sound familiar, being on a debate team has probably set you up for success with this mode.


Collaborating takes time and willing participants. It is best used when merging diverse perspectives is important (especially when concerns are vital to an organization) and you need a commitment to a decision or to working through a relationship. The skills for collaborating are setting the right tone when raising the issue (right time, benefits of a solution) and knowing the difference between a concern and a position. It’s important to stay flexible, especially when looking at solutions. When collaborating in a group, think abundance versus scarcity—of ideas, information, goals, and alternatives. Even if the leader steps in to make a decision instead of reaching group consensus, team members will have had a chance to share, ask, or speak about concerns.


If competing and collaborating haven’t worked, there is always compromising (especially when there are people with equal power or time crunches, or when a temporary solution is needed). The critical skill for compromising is being able to determine what is fair for both parties. It is easy to cut an apple in half, but what about running a business or an organization? Working with vendors or customers? Getting your children to school in clothes they don’t want to wear? (I just threw that one in to see if you are paying attention.) Compromising is being able to make those partial concessions and ensure that they are reciprocated without looking like you are “giving up” or “giving in.”


When temperatures rise, EQ sometimes falls. Avoiding involves keeping your cool, recognizing a tense situation where there are issues of blame, anger, or sensitivity, and understanding that it might be prudent to postpone. The skills for avoiding are the abilities to avoid without being evasive, postpone, set a time, and set the goal to resolve the issue when emotions aren’t running so high. Using the avoiding mode also requires the ability to give the other person the benefit of the doubt. Recognize the issues that are unimportant and the ones where you can’t win. This may not be the best place, time, etc.


Accommodating requires the skill of conceding gracefully without harboring any resentment. Remember, this mode is about meeting the other person’s concerns at the expense of your own. Accommodating is about being persuaded, obeying authority, or deferring to another’s expertise. When conceding, explain your reasons without being defensive. Accommodating also requires the skill of recognizing when the conflict is about something that is very important to someone else. Active listening, damage repair, and forgiveness are key to practicing this mode. It is also important to know when you are finished using this mode. In the movie 27 Dresses, the main character has to practice saying no—which may not come easily to accommodators.


Actively applying the most effective conflict mode takes practice and patience with yourself. How would you benefit from being able to more effectively manage conflict?


Want to learn more about the TKI? How about an introduction webinar?


This blog is one in a series of many about Relationships and Conflict:

This is the third part in a series of three blog posts about the TKI. Read the first blog post and the second blog post here!

Read the first blog post in the Relationships and Conflict series: Increasing Self-Awareness and Understanding Team

Enter your information to download the ebook when it comes out about Relationships & Conflict.

Want an overview of the entire Relationships and Conflict series in a creative visual – yeah, we’ve got that too.

One Comment

  1. Great written content , thanks for the info.

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