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The art of conflict

The art of conflict

By Dear Molly

There comes a point in life you realise that conflict is unavoidable. Whether it’s in the playground, the workforce or even within your personal relationships, it just isn’t feasible for humans to agree with each other 100 per cent of the time.

The art of conflict, however, is apparently how you manage it.

According to experts there are five strategies for handling conflict, and women often have a different approach to men.

So what are the five strategies for managing conflict, and how do women traditionally differ?

Avoiding

Yep, this stance probably feels familiar to many, where the risk of engaging in a conflict outweighs the reward of working through it and perhaps coming to a resolution.

The trouble with this strategy, is that it often sees things that need to be addressed swept under the rug for fear of facing an uncomfortable situation.

And the reality is when conflict is avoided, nothing is resolved making it a lose/lose situation.

Competition

We’ve all faced this ‘opponent’ in a conflict situation. They’re the person who goes all in, taking no prisoners with an aim to win at all costs.

This strategy presents a clear issue from the outset, implying one person is right and all other parties are wrong. It therefore becomes about power, fails to allow for diverse opinions and inhibits the ability to work through a problem to find a mutually beneficial outcome.

Accommodating

Being accommodating when faced with conflict might seem like a gracious move, and it is when you hear someone out and determine, they have valid points.

But in some instances, accommodating means you simply ‘give in’ and accede your rights in the face of another’s position in a bid to preserve harmony.

In this situation, accommodating is about as helpful as avoiding in that it can lead to unresolved issues.

Compromising

Compromising involves finding common ground and then chances are the parties involved will give something up in order to gain something else.

The great thing about compromise is that it’s perceived as fair, but on the flipside there’s a chance no-one will walk away entirely happy with the outcome.

Collaborating

Collaborating is considered a win/win outcome in that everyone involved needs to take the time to listen to and understand each other’s perspective then work together to find a suitable solution.

It requires trust and commitment on all sides of an argument.

So what’s the difference between the genders?

Conflict handling styles men and women

There have been multiple studies that look at conflict management styles and how they differ between the genders particularly in the workplace.

A study that was conducted in the 1980s found  women exhibit greater discomfort and anxiety in a conflict situation than men, while further research indicated women have a lower tolerance for disagreement.

Some argue that’s based on the gender roles instilled in us by society and may mean women are more prone to avoiding and accommodating when it comes to conflict.

But clearly that’s a generalisation and may not always be the case. It may depend on the environment, the issue at hand and the type of relationship involved.

But it begs the question how do you handle conflict?

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