Conflict Resolution, Part 5:

How to Solve Conflict Through Collaboration

Collaboration is the best way to arrive at a resolution. By collaborating on something you’re actually tuning into the other person’s side. You’re listening and lending your thoughts as well.

In this last installment of our series on conflict resolution, we’ll be diving into all the reasons why you should employ a more collaborative approach in your marriage, divorce, and other areas, too. But first, some backstory.

Breaking the Rules of Fight Club with Our Series on Conflict Resolution

Part 1 introduced the five fighting styles and how they are categorized. We learned that a fighting style is an evaluation of the ratio of someone’s concern for their own needs in proportion to their concern for the needs of others. It’s assertiveness versus cooperativeness.

Thomas and Kilmann came up with this scale in the 70’s. And it’s still the most widely used method for conflict resolution. Their scale is based on those five fighting styles.

In that same week, we discussed the characteristics of avoiders. They’re the ones who run full speed in the opposite direction of an argument. They don’t care about what’s playing out around them. Nothing is worth fighting for to them. Avoiders run low in both assertiveness and a willingness to cooperate. Dealing with their issues alone isn’t possible, and they tend to do better with counseling.

Accommodators, aptly named, by the way, give in to others in arguments. Standing their ground isn’t as big a priority to them as it is for you or me. Training in assertiveness helps them learn to do just that and avoid getting steamrolled or disrespected.

Dominant fighters are the steamrollers. They’re who accommodators give in to. They’re highly assertive and don’t care who feels the effects of their wrath. Callous in the midst of disagreements, they come off as severely competitive and need to be right every time. On the flip side, you can count on a dominant fighter in a crisis.

Last week’s installment explored common myths about compromise. As children, Sesame Street’s lovable Elmo taught us that we could only solve our issues with some give and take. Not so! In fact, it leaves us in an all around unhappy state. It’s the Hot Pocket of the fighting world, a quick fix to a recurring problem. It leads to heightened competition among couples and begrudging attitudes.

Introducing Collaboration

Where it lands on the scale:

In conflict, collaborators behave in direct opposite of avoiders. They’re highly assertive and highly cooperative. Both sides get what they want.

Characteristics of Collaborators:

Collaborative fighters want to know exactly what the other person wants. So they listen. The outcome is what matters to them most because they’re both cooperative and assertive. Relationships have value in their world. Their responses are full of intention and thought.

Conflict Resolution 5Why is it the Best Method of Conflict Resolution?

Collaboration is the most effective way to resolve conflicts at home or work. It’s the only real win/win way to end an uncomfortable situation. It requires some out-of-the-box thinking to navigate because it strives to satisfy the needs of everyone involved. In the end, no one gives up anything and receives a satisfactory outcome.

All sides are taken into consideration before collaborators make decisions. Their ultimate goal is to bring new insight to the surface in a non-threatening environment. With everything laid out on the table, it’s easy to meet the needs of all parties.

That non-threatening environment is created using an open-minded, engaged attitude. When collaboration is the goal, stepping on people’s toes, rolling over, or meeting in the middle aren’t effective tools. Don’t use them.

For it to work, both parties must agree to put their differences aside to discuss the matter. Avoiders and accommodators are leery of this because it takes some assertiveness on their part to pull off. Dominant fighters need to lean into cooperation. Perfecting an effective execution of this process takes time, so many people shy away from it in favor of arriving at a compromise instead.

How to Solve Conflict Through Collaboration

To those on the other extremes of the TKI, collaborating sounds intimidating and uncomfortable. Here’s an easy process for getting started.

  1. Set aside the appropriate amount of time. Obviously, some topics in your marriage are more serious than others. You don’t need to take two hours to decide on dinner. Likewise, you will need more than five minutes to discuss how you want to raise your children. If you don’t make the time for the conversation, it’ll never happen.
  2. Be prepared. It’s a good idea to write down your ideal outcome in detail. It will help you avoid a circular conversation or falling down the rabbit hole. Having a written idea will also help you build confidence if you’re less assertive. And it has the added benefit of helping you remember your key points, too.
  3. Hear all sides before making a decision. Doing this keeps you in check and aware of everyone’s voice while effectively creating a non-threatening environment. Jumping to a decision after hearing only one side of the argument will not facilitate a collaborative effort because you’ll end up inadvertently disregarding other perspectives.
  4. Evaluate all the options. Once everyone has aired their grievances, talk about all the possible solutions for the issue. Explain why you endorse the solution. Make sure it addresses all aspects of the problem and will leave everyone satisfied. Opt for permanent solutions over Band-Aids. If necessary, do nothing. It’s a viable option if the problem will work itself out.
  5. Make a decision. Now that you’ve weighed all the choices, it’s time to make a decision on a course of action. If you’ve arrived here after following all the steps, your decision should be clear at this point.
  6. Check back frequently. Again, use your better judgment about which topics need follow up and which don’t. Follow-ups keep everyone on the same page. After doing so, you can decide whether or not adjustments need to be made to your original plan of action. After all, nothing ever goes exactly as planned.

Conclusion

Collaboration affords everyone an opportunity to be heard and end up satisfied. Though it may be time-consuming, the outcome is well worth your effort.

If you’ve been following along, odds are you can now identify which of the five fighting styles you most relate to. While all five have a time and place in which they’re often effective, collaboration is the only one that yields satisfactory results. You’re not relegated to just one style. With a little effort, you can improve your fighting technique.

Sorry, Fight Club. We broke the rules and are better for it.

And there you have it! We’ve reached the end of our conflict resolution series. If you’ve been tuning in regularly, I’d love your feedback! What tools do you employ when resolving conflicts in your life? Let us know in our gray comments section.

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