“Using Self-Awareness To Navigate Your Conflicts”
How would you react in the following situations?
1. Your co-workers take you out for lunch on your birthday. You have on your favorite shirt, but the server at the restaurant, who you think is a little rude, accidentally spills a drink all over you.
2. After a long week, you finally get to relax with a good book or Netflix, yet your child or partner won’t stop singing an annoying song over and over and over.
3. It seems like a co-worker has taken credit for your hard work and they’re receiving a lot of praise.
Depending on your reaction, these situations could lead to conflict for you. You might find yourself yelling or sulking or stewing in silent anger. Luckily, knowing your preferred conflict style or approach is an excellent first step in managing your conflicts.
Knowing your own conflict style is a key to self-awareness. At EII Consulting we use Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessments to increase your self-awareness to better understand your own motivations and needs. Similarly, the Thomas-Killman Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI) is a tool that can help us better understand how we prefer to approach conflicts and thus communicate appropriately, lead effectively, and manage stress.
The TKI model uses what is also known as the Dual Concern model. The Dual Concern model predicts how you might act during a conflict based on how much you care about your own needs and interests and how much you care about the other person’s needs and interests. There are five conflict styles: competing, accommodating, avoiding, collaborating, and compromising. TKI gives a good description of each style and again, these styles assume that your motivations are based on a combination of assertiveness and empathy/cooperation. The chart below can help you visualize how you might fall into each category
For example, if your concern for yourself is high but your concern for the other person is low, you’ll be more likely to be competitive during a conflict and be uncooperative with helping the other person get their needs met. You’ll do whatever it takes to “win,” or be right, so imagine what this conflict style looks like during your birthday lunch when that rude server spills coffee on your favorite shirt. Competing as a conflict style isn’t necessarily bad or negative, but knowing that you might immediately jump to that style is an excellent way to be self-aware and then choose your next action deliberately. On the other hand, if your concern for the other person is low and you aren’t assertive in a situation, you’ll avoid it all together or postpone your actions. This might be an effective approach if you know your singing child will stop soon and you don’t want to hurt her feelings. But when your concern for yourself and the other person is high, or when you feel assertive and you want to cooperate, then you’ll start to collaborate and enter into a conflict by looking for the root causes. So if you know you’re more likely to avoid instead of collaborate, you can take a step back and say to yourself, “That singing is going to give me a colossal headache, I can’t avoid my child and then be resentful, I’m going to engage with her and work something out.” Finally, imagine how avoiding or compromising might look with the co-worker who took credit for your work. Is that person just an ambitious jerk, or is there some underlying cause for their actions that you haven’t uncovered yet? Knowing your conflict style could help you engage with that person in a healthy way and even lead to collaboration in the future.
Knowing what motivates you and having a tool that can predict how you respond during conflict will create deeper self-awareness. And being self-aware can help you be productive, assertive, and more efficient when navigating conflict.
by Ms. Shelly Clay-Robison