In my work with clients of all kinds, I have noticed five basic types of people when it comes to responding to conflict. Admittedly, I did not come up with these categories from a sophisticated and comprehensive statistical analysis. They are, however, built on my observations from working with many people and talking about their approaches to conflict and then observing the outcome of those approaches.
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I see people who are:
Conflict Rock Stars. They are almost always in control of their responses. They know how to communicate calmly and assertively in nearly every situation. Their response seems easy and effortless to the outside observer.Conflict Confident. They demonstrate appropriate responses to most conflicts. They respond in ways that lead to resolution rather than to escalation. Even though they might feel some unease or discomfort in conflict, they engage confidently and lead toward resolution.Conflict Queasy. They either get a knot in their stomach that causes them to be too passive or a little flash of anger that causes them to be too aggressive. In fact, they might switch between too aggressive and too passive in the same encounter. In general, they do pretty well in conflict, and they respond in ways that feel like they will lead to resolution. However, they are often confused and frustrated when their responses unintentionally escalate conflicts.Conflict Chickens.
They run from conflict almost every time. They avoid confrontation and conflict to the point that they fail to engage even when doing so will quickly resolve the situation. Their failure to engage often leads to escalation rather than deescalation because the issues causing the conflict remain unresolved.Conflict Coercers. They are on the other end of the spectrum from Conflict Chickens. They often dive into conflict and push for resolution in a way that inflames rather than calms the situation. They sometimes think they have resolved a conflict when they drive people to be quiet, give up or walk away.
Which are you? What about your employees? What I’ve found is that most people fall in the Conflict Queasy category. There are also a pretty significant number of Conflict Chickens and Conflict Coercers out there. Unfortunately, there are fewer Conflict Confident people, and still fewer Conflict Rock Stars.
The good news is that no matter where you start, you can become Conflict Confident. With enough study and practice, you could even become a Conflict Rock Star. The growth in your conflict resolution skills begins when you first understand what category you fall into. From there, you must learn how to accurately diagnose and read conflict situations and respond appropriately—and confidently—to the conflict. To help you do just that, here are a list of resources that will teach you how to approach and manage conflict more effectively.