There are five general conflict resolution styles. The styles vary in their degrees of assertiveness and cooperation. They range from the avoidance style, which is unassertive and uncooperative, to the collaborative style, which is both assertive and cooperative. Styles tend to reflect the personality or situation of the person using them. However, any individual may employ more than one style of conflict resolution or change between styles to resolve a particular dispute.
A competing or controlling style of dispute resolution involves a high degree of assertiveness. It is uncooperative in the sense that it pursues selfish ends at the expense of other parties to the conflict. It is often used when the person thinks of conflict in terms of winning or losing or of standing up for herself. It is most often an exercise of power, but it may also be used in matters of conscience, when someone believes that compromise will sacrifice an important principle.
Among the conflict resolution styles, the accommodating style is the opposite of that of a competing or controlling approach. It involves minimizing one’s own concerns to satisfy those of other parties to the dispute. It entails a high degree of self-sacrifice and yielding to the needs of others. An accommodating style in often used by a person who acknowledges being in the wrong. However, sometimes it is used in interpersonal conflicts when sustaining the relationship is more important than the issue in dispute.
The avoiding style of conflict resolution uses strategies of postponement, withdrawal, and non-cooperation. It usually does not involve any assertion of rights or needs to be satisfied through the negotiation. An avoidance approach is considered unhealthy if it is based on fear of speaking out or is a coping mechanism for all forms of conflict. However, it can be a useful choice from the conflict resolution styles where emotions have become too volatile, and there is a need to restore calm.
In disputes where everyone is in a position to give up something, a compromising style can be effective. It is particularly useful when everyone wants the same thing and it can be divided equally. This could be applied in land disputes or access to a type of service or resource. A compromising style is not recommended for complex disagreements, where a greater investment of time and effort is necessary to yield results that are more satisfying to the individual parties.
Among all the conflict resolution styles, the collaborative style is considered the best for reaching a solution that can satisfy all the parties’ interests. A collaborative approach is both assertive and cooperative. It reflects a team approach where the disputants address their individual goals while attempting to understand and satisfy the needs of others. The goal of a collaborative style is to reach a collective agreement that the parties believe is fair under all the circumstances.