Manage Conflict Better Today With The UB Guide to Conflict Resolution – By Joyce Marter, LCPC

What Defines Conflict?

  • The struggle between incompatible impulses, desires or principles.

Myths About Conflict

  • Harmony is normal and conflict is abnormal.

  • There is only one right way to handle conflict.

  • Good people don’t have disagreements.

  • There is no conflict in healthy relationships.

  • In conflict, somebody always gets hurt.

The Truth About Conflict

  • It is a normal and necessary part of the human condition.

  • Conflict is necessary for progress and change.

  • It is an opportunity for honesty and intimacy in relationships.

What complicates conflict?

  • Poor communication

  • Different values and opinions

  • Confusion about role expectations

  • Unresolved prior conflict

With whom does conflict typically occur?

  • Co-workers/Peers

  • Supervisor/Manager

  • Employees/Staff

  • Clients/Customers

  • Family/Friends

  • Acquaintances/Strangers

Intensity of Conflict Depends On Importance of Issue & Relationship

  • High intensity: Important issue & important relationship

  • Low Intensity: Unimportant issue & less key relationship

How does conflict affect you?

  • Stress (might impact sleep, appetite)

  • Anxiety (nervousness, worry)

  • Anger (irritation, annoyance)

  • Fear (dealing with the uncertainties of the relationship and the future)

  • Sadness (feelings of powerlessness, loss)

  • Hopelessness (concern that things are stuck and will not change)

  • Physical complaints (headaches, digestive problems)

The 4 Main Conflict Management Styles:

1) Dominating

  • “I win–You lose”
  • Useful when a quick decision is needed

  • Uses power and wins by force

  • Aggressive and inflexible

  • Resolution is unrelated to merit

This behavior is assertive and uncooperative. It’s an “all or nothing” attitude, negotiation is not an option. This is a power-oriented way of doing things.

Pros: Useful when issue is important and relationship is not.

-Good for getting to the “bottom line”


-Good mode for competition

Cons: Miss out on other person’s perspective

-Makes enemies

-Is upsetting if you lose

2) Compromising

  • “I win a little–You win a little”

  • Other person still seen as opponent

  • Each party makes concessions

  • Makes solution more tolerable for each

If this is your style, you’re able to look beyond your own needs/interests. This style lets you see things from the other person’s perspective- “both sides of coin.”

Pros: Maintains good relationship with other party

-You get some of what you want

-Can practice good problem-solving skills

Cons: Don’t get everything you wanted.

-Takes time to reach conclusion.

-Not effective with uncooperative or passive-aggressive person.

3) Avoiding

  • “I lose–You lose”

  • Tendency to withdraw and avoid

  • Expect to lose to protect yourself

  • Feelings of frustration and resentment

You will do almost anything to avoid conflict if this is your primary style. Sometimes characterized by passive-aggressive behavior, eg – “sneaky aggression.”

Pros: Good when relationship is everything and issue is trivial.

-Provides time to think about issue and gather info.

-Is easier.

Cons: Never get what you want

-Stirs up feelings that won’t go away.

-Gives appearance of uninterest, lack of involvement.

-Can be highly manipulative if passive-aggressive.

-There’s no contribution to solution.

4) Accommodating

  • “I lose a little–You win a little”

  • Placate to protect the relationship

  • Avoid conflict to appease others

  • “It’s okay, we’ll do it your way.”

  • May result in domination

With this style, you probably give in a lot. You abandon your own self-interest for others. Can be viewed as extremely generous and giving or wishy-washy.

Pros: Often viewed as noble.

-Maintains harmony (on surface).

-Speeds decision-making process.

Cons: People “walk all over you” eg – pushover.

-People rarely reciprocate and let you have your way.

-Resentment and frustration (repeatedly!)

In a Perfect World…

  • “I win–You win”

  • Values the goals, people and relationships

  • Assumes enthusiastic cooperation

  • Identifies the common goal

  • Tolerance for differences

  • Constructive negotiation

Sometimes when you’ve got a common goal but different ideas about how it should be

reached, this “win-win” situation is possible. It takes time and patience and effort from both

sides in order for this to happen.

How to Deal with Those Who Typically Have Each Style:

Dominating – Be assertive! Don’t back down unless they are willing to give alittle too.

Don’t take things personally, don’t get defensive.

Stick up for yourself and point out how rude and offensive the dominator may be (they may not even be aware.)

Compromising – No problems here. Make your needs known and then start the negotiations.

Avoiding – Tread carefully. Requires a big achievement just to get acknowledgment of conflict. Point out that resolving issue is in his/her own best interest. Make things as non-threatening as possible.

Accomodating – Be careful. It is too easy to take advantage. Make sure they have ample opportunity to voice objections. Point out that dealing with conflict feels better in the end.

Choose Your Battles by Asking Yourself…

  • Is the issue worth it?

  • Is the other person important to me?

  • Will the conflict improve the relationship?

  • Am I prepared to invest the energy?

Consider the Factors You Can Control

  • Good Preparation

  • Effective Timing

  • Appropriate Location

  • Positive Attitude

  • Realistic Expectations

  • Distinguish needs from wants

  • Address the real issue


  • Listen actively

  • Empathize/Validate

  • Be assertive

  • Use “I” statements

  • Speak to the issue, not the person

  • Try to be objective, not emotional

  • Filter your initial defensive responses

  • Stay in the present

  • Keep a reasonable perspective

  • Learn to listen

  • Learn to negotiate

  • Use your sense of humor

  • Remove your ego from the conflict

  • Don’t get side-tracked by old issues, other issues

  • Cooling off periods are good ideas

While Reaching a Resolution

  • Negotiate

  • Be creative

  • Reach a shared agreement

  • Develop action plan

  • Follow up

Develop a list of acceptable solutions based on the wish lists of both parties.

Examine the options, eliminate both parties low priority items, accept the mutually satisfying, and negotiate the difficult points.

This is a good time to revisit the skills of collaboration and compromise. Continue to actively listen to that which is said.

Early intervention is better than late intervention.

When agreement is not reached…

  • Agree to disagree agreeably

  • Start trying to resolve the conflict over again

  • Get consultation from a trusted friend/family member, mediator, coach or therapist


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