Experts in conflict resolution say people tend to have a “default style” -- a preferred approach that typically we rely on. Here are five styles, drawn from the work of conflict scholars Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann. Which one are you apt use, especially in difficult conversations?

  • Competition: I generally value my goals over relationships. I see conflict in terms of winning and losing, and I will win. I push for my advantage, argue my point and generally stand firm on my original goal.
  • Compromise: I’m willing to give up some of my goals in order to preserve the relationship, but I expect the other person to give up something as well. If we both sacrifice, we’ve demonstrated a willingness to get along. I approach difficult conversations assuming I’ll give up something to get something.
  • Collaboration: I value my goals and the relationship, and I try to find creative ways to not only achieve everyone's goals, but to build the relationship in the process. I enter a difficult conversation aiming for a “win” for everyone.
  • Accommodation: I’d rather give up my goals than risk the relationship. I hate the bad feelings that come from difficult conversations and prefer to give in rather than press for what I believe is right.
  • Avoidance: I walk away from my goal and the relationship. It is not worth the trouble or danger of dealing with the situation.

Good leaders don't just know their preferred style. They understand all five styles and know when to use each.

Taken from Dealing With Difficult Conversations, a self-directed course by Jill Geisler at Poynter NewsU. Looking for more leadership training? See our lineup of upcoming Poynter programs.

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