We all have a preference for our conflict style. In mediation, we often use the lens of the Thomas Kilman Instrument which arranges preferences along two axes.
One measures concern for our own goals / assertiveness and the other measures concern for others / co-operativeness.
For those who have a high focus on their own goals and a relatively low interest in relationships, they may adopt a competitive stance. For those who wish to dash to a conclusion or get a deal, they may compromise too quickly to achieve the deal. Each conflict preference has a pro / con. It may sound like being competitive may sound like a winning strategy, but if this is a long-term relationship then winning at all costs may backfire.
Having spoken to many people in training / classes about their personal conflict preferences, most people have a strong idea of their own preference. We know ourselves. What people are less aware of is that we are all able to adapt our behaviour to assume a different style if we want to.
What criteria should we use to decide which style to use?
Using these criteria to approach communication in conflict can be part of a planning process that occurs prior to the interaction. Next time you are approaching a difficult conversation, pause and think for a moment about how you could be in the conflict?