Got Conflict? Don't Fret. You've Got Options.

Facing a conflict? Worried and wondering what to do?

Don't fret. First, take a deep breath. Second, realize that you have options. Perhaps more than you realize -- and it's worth taking a moment to understand and consider them before you do anything.

Many people, faced with a conflict, have a natural tendency toward handling them one way: fight or flee. But as this chart neatly shows, there are more options than that: five in all.

Let's take a closer look at each. Of course, we all know about "competing" -- I win, you lose. And there is the opposite: accommodation or letting the other side win. And hopefully, we all know something about compromise -- which is to say "splitting the pie in half" with each side getting 50%. And then there is "avoiding" which we all do sometimes: just leaving each other alone.

But perhaps the most intriguing in this diagram (which, by the way, was developed by Ron Kraybill) ​is "collaboration." This is where each side gets 100% of what they want. Now, you're saying to yourself: "I took math. How could both sides get 100%? That would add up to 200%!" So let's explain by example:

Imagine that two children are fighting over an orange. So a parent might logically split the orange in half and give each child their piece (a compromise). But let's say the parent asks each child why they want the orange. It turns out one child wants the inside to eat it. The other child only wants the peel in order to make something. Thus, by having explored the matter, it was discovered that each child could get 100% of what they want: one gets the inside and the other gets the peel.

Now that we've reviewed all five approaches, here's a question: which one do you think is best?

Actually, they are all perfectly valid, depending on the circumstance. Yes, sometimes we do need to win. To take an extreme: Could you really compromise with a Hitler? Or a more mundane example: if your child wants to rush across a street, can you let them? On the other hand, if your spouse really wants that last piece of cake, you just might let them.

A final point: choosing one option now doesn't prevent you from choosing another option later. For example, perhaps the best strategy in the moment is "avoiding" -- which is to say a cooling-off period so that both parties can reduce emotions and clarify for themselves their aims. Then later on, they might come together to try and work it out through one of the other options.

What do you think? Feel free to leave a comment below.


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