There is no one ideal way of dealing with conflict. The best response is well matched to the situation and may involve multiple approaches over time. The best way to deal with conflict emerges from a familiarity with the options, and the ability to assess the strengths of each. Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann describe five modes for responding to conflict.
An accommodation strategy emphasizes relationship, good will, group cohesion, and the expertise and authority of others. It resolves conflict by accommodating the needs or perspective of others through generosity, respect, support and/or sensitivity.
Avoidance emphasizes the potential fallout of more interactive conflict modes, and only entering conflict when the conditions are appropriate for positive outcomes. This mode provides time and distance for conflicting needs and perspectives to change on their own, or for parties to develop the conditions for successful resolution.
Dealing with conflict through collaboration emphasizes identifying the best, most robust, long-term solution with the greatest buy-in. With this mode, parties invest the time, attention, and resources to fully consider and integrate multiple perspectives, needs, and implications.
Competition emphasizes facts, strength and courage of convictions, and speed and action. This strategy resolves conflict through testing ideas and commitment. A hallmark of competition is strong advocacy for a subset of needs and perspectives that are seen as highly compelling.
This mode emphasizes pragmatism, reciprocity, and workable solutions (even if temporary). Compromise resolves conflict through flexibility, negotiation, and an emphasis on short-term progress.
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