Lessons in Self-Awareness: How Do I Deal With Conflict?

credit: Dotun Ogunyemi, MD, FACOG, MFM

In life; conflict is inevitable. Everyone deals with at least 4 conflicts daily. No man or woman is an island; we are all part of a group either professionally, socially or home with family. The ability to resolve conflicts amicably in our teams will determine how effective we in achieving goals, being satisfied with life, becoming successful or accomplished.

Conflict can be defined as a struggle or contest between people with opposing needs, ideas, beliefs, values, or goals, when the concerns of groups appear to be incompatible. Sources of conflict include interpersonal conflict, competition for resources and inherent diversity of people such as culture, race, gender, attitude, goals, attitudes, profession or organization. Unresolved conflicts result in wars on a large scale and in divorces on a personal level.

However conflict is good for us because it challenges our relationship and allows us to grow. These are issues that punctuate a long term relationship that if worked through can result in a stronger bond; and is a process that allows diversity to stimulate growth & improve relationships.

People respond to conflict by FIGHT or FLIGHT. We want to "get away from the conflict" or we are ready to "take on anyone who comes our way." The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI) is a widely used test that describes 5 conflict styles based on 2 dimensions: 1) Assertiveness- Satisfy SELF & 2) Cooperativeness Satisfy OTHERS. The 5 styles are competing, accommodating, avoiding, collaborating, and compromising.

For example, competing is used when you have authority over others, if quick or unpopular decisions are required; it involves debating or arguing and standing your ground. Compromising is best if opponents of equal power must negotiate, make concessions or share to achieve common goals. Collaborating, takes significant time and energy, is beneficial for important issues or relationships such as a marriage. Accommodation yields, obeys and is selfless by satisfying others, keeping the peace or being a "saint". Avoidance withdraws and sidesteps issues; is useful in reducing tension, when you have no power, or others can resolve the conflict more effectively.

We are capable of utilizing all five styles; however everyone has one or two primary or "preferred" styles. Self awareness requires that we recognize our primary conflict style as well as the style of those we engage in conflict. Effective self & relationship management requires that we choose the most appropriate conflict style given the situation.