And which one do you use most often?

When you understand how you handle conflict, you can begin to understand when your approach is effective and when it is not. Then you can learn to adapt your behavior and draw from different conflict resolutions styles as-needed. There are five conflict handling modes and one of these is your preferred mode. These five modes come from the TKI or Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument.

What is the TKI? The TKI is a questionnaire designed to measure how you tend to handle inter-personal conflict. This is expressed using five modes (which we will cover next) and two dimensions:

* Assertiveness – This is the degree to which you try to satisfy your own concerns when faced with a conflict.
* Cooperativeness – This is the degree to which you try to satisfy the other person’s concerns when faced with a conflict.

The TKI was developed in the early 70’s by Kenneth W Thomas and Ralph H Kilmann. It was originally developed as a research tool and has grown into a wonderful training tool. Now let’s take a look at the five conflict resolution modes:

Competing – This mode is considered to be very assertive and very uncooperative. Sometimes the term power-oriented is associated with this mode. This can be an individual who pursues their beliefs at another person’s expense, using whatever power is appropriate to win his or her position. Although there might be some negative connotations to the way this mode is described, there are absolutely times when it is the best and most effective way to resolve a conflict.

Accommodating – The exact opposite of competing, accommodating is unassertive and highly cooperative. You might neglect your own concerns to satisfy the concerns of another person. This could be self-sacrificing, but it can also represent selfless generosity or charity or obeying orders when you would prefer not to.

Avoiding – This is unassertive and uncooperative. You are not pursuing your concerns, you are not pursuing the concerns of the other person, and you are not addressing the conflict. You might be doing this for diplomatic reasons, or to wait until a better time or maybe you are withdrawing from a threatening situation.

Collaborating – This is assertive and cooperative and it is the opposite of avoiding. You attempt to work with the other person to find a solution that satisfies both your concerns. Together you dig into the issue and identify both of your underlying concerns. You might work to understand each other’s needs and perspectives so that together you can find creative solutions.

Compromising – The middle ground in terms of assertiveness and cooperativeness. Find a mutual solution that partially satisfies both of you. You give up more than you would when you are in competitive mode, but less than you would if you were accommodating. You address the issue more directly than avoiding but you don’t give it as much attention and analysis as you do with collaborating. This could be splitting the difference, both of you giving ground etc.

Did any of the above resonate with you? You will find you have a preferred style but who you are dealing with will impact your style too – you might use a different style in different relationships. Remember, there is a reason and a situation for each one of the modes, but your strength will come from understanding your natural inclinations and then from learning how to employ other modes when the time is right.

PS - If you are interested in learning more or in taking the TKI assessment, contact me at

conflict, effective, adapt your behavior, TKI, Thomas-Kilmann, Assertiveness, cooperativeness, Competing, Accommodating, Avoiding, Collaborating, Compromising

Author's Bio: 

Margaret developed a passionate belief that it takes courage and skill to be human at work and that all individuals have a responsibility to treat each other with dignity, respect and compassion.

Motivated by her beliefs and the desire to make a difference in the lives of others, Margaret acted on her vision by founding Meloni Coaching Solutions, Inc. Her vision is to create a group of successful individuals who are at peace with their authentic selves; a group of people who help and support others; a group who bring humanity to the office and thrive because of it. Margaret sees a world where achieving peace and achieving success go hand-in-hand.

Margaret’s students and clients often find that what she really brings them is freedom to bring their authentic selves to the office. As a former Information Technology Executive, Margaret always knew her preference was for the people behind the technology. Now Margaret brings those beliefs to individuals from many professional backgrounds. The common thread across her client base is the desire to experience peace at work and the recognition that peace is not absence of conflict, peace is the ability to cope with conflict. For these people, Margaret Meloni is truly ‘A Path to Peace’. ™

You can learn more about Margaret and her courses, programs, and products at:

Additional Resources covering Conflict Resolution can be found at:

Website Directory for Conflict Resolution
Articles on Conflict Resolution
Products for Conflict Resolution
Discussion Board
Margaret Meloni, the Official Guide to Conflict Resolution