About Your Conflict Style

 (adapted from United States Institute of Peace (USIP)’s Conflict Styles Assessment and Kilmann Diagnostics)

The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Styles theory suggests that we all have a preference for how we resolve conflict. This theory suggests that there are five general approaches to conflict: accommodating, avoiding, collaborating, competing, and compromising. These will vary depending upon the nature and context of a particular conflict.


Accommodating is a harmonizing approach to conflict. Those who prefer this style often focus on supporting others in a conflict situation and are adept at placating people in uncomfortable situations. Those who prefer accommodating often gain strong appreciation from others involved in a conflict.

Weaknesses: Those who prefer accommodating may build up resentment from denying their own needs. It also may be difficult for those who want to get to the root of the problem to work with Those who prefer accommodating who tend to focus on making others happy.


Those who prefer avoiding tend to step away from conflict. They often keep their opinions to themselves in conflict situations so as not to continue or escalate the conflict. They are often admired for having a calming, quiet presence in the face of crisis.

Weaknesses: Those who prefer avoiding sometimes keep their feelings bottled up and then aren’t able to meet their own needs. This can result in a frustrating buildup of emotions.


(USIP refers to this as “Problem-Solving”)

Those who prefer collaborating tend to want to discuss all the details of a problem and work through it together so that everyone gets what they want and is happy in the end. Their strengths are that they tend to welcome differences, build high-levels of trust and mutual understanding in relationships. There is also the potential to learn from creative problem solving.

Weaknesses: When time is a factor, it is difficult to spend the energy and time needed to process the way those who prefer collaborating tend do. There is also the potential for burnout from over-processing.


Those who prefer competing are known for being persuasive and direct. They know the result they want in a conflict situation, and they go for it. Their strengths are that they are often passionate about their views and dedicated to pursuing their convictions. Those who prefer competing are good at making quick decisions, and tend not to waste time, which is especially helpful in the time of crisis.

Weaknesses: Sometimes those who prefer competing wind up with unequal relationships with others, and feelings of others can be hurt or overlooked with their decision-making style.


Those who prefer compromising approach conflict with the goal of compromise. They tend to think about what they are willing to give up and what they are willing to hold on to, and try to gear communication to focus on this give and take for all parties. It is a good way to promote cooperation. It can be done fairly quickly when both parties are engaged.

Weaknesses: Those who prefer compromising may miss opportunities for creative problem- solving and gaining buy-in. They may also struggle when faced with a conflict that can’t be “split down the middle.”

Which style is the best?

Ultimately, what approach you should use depends upon the conflict itself. If you think about how assertive and cooperative you should be in a particular conflict, this chart can help you decide on a particular approach.

Diagram illustrating the following relationships between different styles and being cooperative versus assertive: (1) Competing is highly assertive and low on cooperation; (2) Collaborating is high in both asserting and cooperating; (3) Accommodating is high in cooperating and low in asserting; (4) Avoiding is low in asserting and cooperating; and (5) Compromising is in the middle on all of these.


If you have questions or comments about this material, please contact Conflict Coach at [email protected]