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Sides of a Coin, Getting Unstuck, Finding the “Truth”

A person trying to avoid a conflict might say:  “I’ve had enough of this!”  and walk away upset.


This section explores some details regarding how to use each conflict style, ways to move forward in a conflict, and what it means to find the “truth,” when conflict happens.

The material in this section is summarized from the website www.kilmanndiagnostics.com which has blogs, articles, and resources related on conflict styles and conflict management.  

Sides of a Coin

Each conflict style may have some value in a given situation, due to the complexity of the issue, time involved, and relationship, among other factors.  The purpose of the examples below is to demonstrate that in any given conflict style, there are at least two approaches to communication in that respective style.  As the examples demonstrate, some options are better than others, and choosing a particular conflict style is one thing, implementing that choice is another.  Focusing on constructive communication, regardless of the conflict style, and encouraging mutual respect is always important.

Avoiding

A person trying to avoid a conflict might say:  “I’ve had enough of this!”  and walk away upset.

Chances are, this person would be perceived as ignoring the needs of the other person.  In this case, no one’s needs are met, neither now nor in the future.  In cases where an ongoing relationship exists, this may lead to hurt feelings, negative future interactions, and ongoing conflict on this and other issues.

A person trying to avoid a conflict might say something to the effect of: “Let’s set up a meeting to discuss this later, I don’t have time at the moment, but I’ll be able to talk about the issue next week.”

In this situation, the person is establishing boundaries around time constraints (and possibly other internal needs such as stress, need to process emotions, etc.)  This is a positive way to avoid a conflict in the moment without shutting the other person down or disregarding their needs.

 

Collaborating

In the collaborating style, the key characteristics that make collaboration successful and necessary are: 1) importance of the issue to both sides; 2) enough time and trust are available to encourage collaboration; 3) everyone’s needs can be met through a win-win collaborative solution, and; 4) there is an ongoing relationship that is important to preserve and maintain.

One side may approach the need to collaborate by saying something to the effect of: “We have to talk about this!  We can’t put a Band-Aid on the problem and expect it to go away!  If we can’t work this out I don’t want to be associated with you.”

The statements above certainly identify the core aspects that necessitate a collaborative approach to the conflict.  However, this may come across as demanding, possibly bullying, and threatening.  The underlying needs are being expressed in a way that may make it difficult for the other side to hear and engage in a collaborative effort to resolve the conflict.

Another person may approach the need for a collaborative conflict style by saying something like: “I’ve realized that our previous solutions and attempts to resolve this haven’t worked, and I’d really like to sit down with you and figure out how we can address both of our needs.  We’ll be working together on many other projects, and I’d like to fix this and lay a solid foundation for a positive work relationship.”

This person also identifies important aspects of the conflict that necessitate a collaborative approach.  In contrast to the “heads” side of the coin, this person identifies the need for collaborations, and invites the other person to participate based on shared needs and an ongoing relationship.

 

Finding the "Truth" in Conflict

Every conflict involves two (or more) versions of the “truth.”  Each side of a conflict has their own perspective, their own respective reality and understanding of the situation.  One of the most difficult things to do when addressing and managing conflict, is to reconcile and resolve different version of the “truth.” 

The Thomas Kilmann model can be adapted to inform our understanding of the truth, and to help identify ways of resolving different versions of the truth in a conflict.  

The logic behind the “truth” version of the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Styles model doesn’t change.  Each conflict style matches with the corresponding section of the diagram, above.

Avoiding the truth = Isolating everyone’s version of the truth

Conceding the truth = Accommodating the other person’s version of the truth, and ignoring one’s own

Maintaining your own truth = Competing with the other person’s version of the truth in a win-lose zero-sum game

Combining version of the truth = Compromising between versions of the truth, accepting parts of each

Synergizing version of the truth = Collaborating to create a new version of the truth that meets everyone’s needs

Kilmann summarizes this concept by stating that “TRUTH (what happened and why) is often at the heart of the disagreement and not until SOME version of the truth is accepted by both persons will it be possible to move forward and develop a workable solution (including apologies, forgiveness, and acceptance of what transpired, as might be necessary).