Conflict styles

Have you ever thought about the traits you have when you are experiencing conflict? In our conflict coaching sessions, we explore the different conflict styles. These are adapted from a conflict analysis tool called the Thomas-Killman Instrument.

Do you recognise yourself in any of the descriptions?

The Competitive Rhino

The rhino tries to force their solutions to the conflict on other parties. They value their own goals above their relationships with others. They are not interested in other parties’ needs, and don’t particularly care if other people like them or approve of their methods. In the rhino’s world, conflict is always a win-lose proposition, and winning gives them a sense of achievement. Losing an argument makes them feel a failure, and they rarely concede a point. They tend to be over-assertive in negotiations.

The Avoidant Ostrich

Ostriches bury their heads in the sand to avoid conflict. They avoid both the issues that give rise to conflict and the people they are in conflict with. The ostrich will not answer the phone or your emails if there’s a difficult discussion in play, and will never give a view in meetings that is remotely contentious. Their uncooperative, avoidant behaviour makes it very difficult to satisfactorily resolve any conflict with an ostrich. It’s a lose-lose situation.

The Accommodating Chameleon

Relationships are everything to the accommodating chameleon, and they will sacrifice their goals in the interests of maintaining harmony.

Chameleons hate any sign of discord, and will do anything they can to smooth things over and preserve relationships (even if it means giving up on what they really want). Chameleons create win-lose situations (and usually they are the loser).

The Compromising Zebra

Zebras are all about compromise. They will give up some of their goals (and sometimes sacrifice some relationships) as long as they can persuade the other party to give something up too. Zebras are happiest if they feel everyone has compromised equally: even if this doesn’t always create the best solution. They have a keen sense of fairness and can be very assertive if they feel the other party isn’t compromising enough.!

The Collaborative Dolphin

Dolphins value their own goals and relationships highly. However, they don’t compete. Instead, they view conflicts as something to be resolved using a joint, problem-solving approach. They are good at looking for creative solutions, which don’t just mean splitting the difference. Dolphins see conflict as an opportunity to improve relationships by reducing tensions, and finding a solution which achieves everyone’s goals (and is therefore a ‘win’ all round).