top of page

Acerca de

Group Discussion

Ask a leadership coach

Ask a leadership expert:
Manage Conflict with Confidence

By Jenn DeWall Confidence and Leadership Trainer, Motivational Speaker & Workplace Culture Expert.


Whether we like it or not, conflict is inevitable. We all have conflicts in our personal and professional lives. As you navigate your relationships and career, learning to manage conflict with confidence is an essential skill we all need to develop. According to the 40 years of conflict resolution research by management professors Ken Thomas, Ph.D. and Ralph Kilmann, Ph.D. Together, they created a tool called the Thomas-Kilmann model of conflict management.

They found that people react differently to conflict, depending on their level of assertiveness in relation to their level of cooperativeness. The more assertive your response, the more it will satisfy your own needs, and the more cooperative you feel – the more you will act to meet the needs of others.  Depending on where you fall between those two traits at any given moment, there are five ways people manage conflict. 

The 5 Ways People Deal with Conflict

1. Avoiding

Unfortunately, many of us try to manage conflict by avoiding it. This strategy involves trying to ignore the problem in the hopes that it will disappear. It can be appropriate if the dispute is trivial or as a short-term solution when people feel overly emotional. It is usually the least effective way to handle conflict and can lead to more problems down the road.


2. Accommodating

Some people prefer to resolve conflict by simply giving in to whatever the other person wants, even at the expense of their own needs, desires or well-being. Sometimes this is an efficient way to end the conflict quickly, but in the long term, consistently ignoring your needs, or being a people-pleaser, will lead to increased stress, resentment, and even burnout.


3. Compromising

Compromising can be a good way to manage conflict. This strategy involves finding an acceptable resolution that will at least partly satisfy everyone involved. The downside to this strategy is that often no one is completely satisfied with the resolution, so negative feelings may still linger.


4. Competing

The competing strategy is highly assertive. You can consider it the “My way or the highway” approach. This is a win/lose strategy, where only one person’s feelings or needs are considered. It can be an appropriate response when quick action needs to be taken. However, using this strategy for less urgent matters will alienate other people and cause more conflict.


5. Collaborating

Collaboration is the gold standard of conflict resolution. This is when we work together to find solutions satisfying everyone involved. In a perfect world, we would always aspire toward collaboration. But in reality, this approach requires a high level of trust, willingness from everyone involved, and often a lot of time. Building consensus can be a painstaking process and is only sometimes possible, especially in the workplace.

How to Choose the Right Approach

So, if none of the five strategies is perfect for every situation, how do we know what to do? Learning to choose the best approach takes some practice. If you take a moment to reflect on the conflict and the situation at hand, it will become easier to know the best approach to take.

For example, if the issue or disagreement isn’t that important or won’t really have a lasting impact, it might be easiest to accommodate the other person and move on. However, if the matter at hand will have a big impact on people or have lasting negative consequences, it is time to choose a more assertive strategy.

To determine how assertive or cooperative you should be, consider a few factors:

  • How important are your needs and desires in this situation?

  • If your needs or desires are not met, how will that impact you? How will it impact others?

  • If you choose an assertive strategy, will there be consequences?

  • Is it possible to seek a collaborative or cooperative solution?

How to Manage Conflict with Confidence

Being able to manage conflict confidently is something anyone can learn! While you may find that you lean towards one of the approaches more often than the others, you can work on becoming more aware of which approach you are choosing and why! With time and effort, you can get comfortable choosing the best method for any situation. If you want to improve your conflict management, you can start by working on your self-awareness, emotional intelligence and listening skills. Those three core skills are the building blocks to managing conflict with confidence.   

Jenn DeWall is a motivational speaker, facilitator, trainer, and podcast host. Jenn is a Millennial leadership and culture expert based in Denver, CO. 

Are you looking for an engaging keynote speaker, workshop facilitator, or trainer? Book Jenn for your leadership needs today!

bottom of page