While a conflict may operate on a variety of levels, we can also respond to conflict in many different ways. These styles often vary along two different scales – from assertive to passive, and non-collaborative to highly collaborative. This leads us to four main styles of responding to conflict:
1. Competitive (assertive, non-collaborative)
This style often involves “fighting it out” and will focus on achieving the result the actor wants for themselves. There is little or no concern for the relationship with the other person. Responses might include; physical/psychological attacks, criticism, put-downs, arguing, threatening, or making black and white claims such as; I’m right-you’re wrong, I’m good-you’re bad.
2. Avoidance (non-assertive, non-collaborative)
Avoiding the conflict suggests that neither the results nor the relationship are sufficiently important to work on. Responses might include; walking out, ignoring the other person, distracting them, joking or changing the subject.
3. Adjustable (non-assertive, collaborative)
Often this style will result in one party surrendering to the demands of the other. In this case the participant may believe that the relationship with the other person is more important that the particular issue at hand. Responses might include; agreeing, apologizing or giving in.
4. Collaborative – (assertive, collaborative)
The collaborative style is often the most positive method of resolving conflicts as it attempts to solve the issue, but also seeks to keep the relationship intact. The aim is to find a satisfactory resolution for both sides.