Five Basic Methods For Resolving Conflict

 

Methods

What Happens When Used: 

Appropriate to Use When: 

Inappropriate to Use When: 

Withdrawal 

Person tries to solve problem by denying its existence. Results in win/lose. 

Issue is relatively unimportant, timing is wrong, cooling off period is needed; short-term use. 

Issue is important; when issue will not disappear, but build. 

Smoothing 

Differences are played down; surface harmony exists. Results in win/lose in forms of resentment, defensiveness, and possible sabotage if issue remains suppressed. 

Same as above, also when preservation of relationship more important at the moment. 

Reluctance to deal with conflict leads to evasion of an important issue; when others are ready and willing to deal with issue. 

Forcing 

One’s authority, position, majority rule, or a persuasive minority settles the conflict. Results in win/lose if the dominated party sees no hope for self. 

When power comes with position of authority; when this method has been agreed upon. 

Losers have no way to express needs; could result in future disruptions. 

Compromise 

Each party gives up something in order to meet midway. Results in win/lose if “middle of the road” position ignores the real diversity of the issue. 

Both parties have enough leeway to give; resources are limited; when win/lose stance is undesirable. 

Original inflated position is unrealistic; solution is watered down to be effective; commitment is doubted by parties involved. 

Collaboration 

Abilities, values, and expertise of all are recognized; each person’s position, is clear but emphasis is on group solution. Results in win/win for all. 

Time is available to complete the process; parties are committed and trained in use of process. 

The conditions of time, abilities, and commitment are not present. 

 

*from Johnson, David W. and Johnson, Frank P. Joining Together: Group Theory and Group Skills. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1982. 

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