Conflict can make or break a relationship, depending on how all parties involved react and/or respond to the situation.
The Avoiding Style
I have a friend who doesn’t usually communicate when there is a problem.
One time my first clue that there was a problem was when he started avoiding me. When I made a point of asking him point blank about the situation, he didn’t seem real comfortable talking through it, especially when I got a little emotional. (No one likes to be avoided!)
That conversation resulted in some necessary changes to our friendship, but I don’t think he realized how putting off the conversation had been more hurtful than simply letting me know his position in the first place.
I can’t criticize my friend too severely; the avoiding style is my primary approach to facing conflict. I tend to analyze my own reaction before bringing it to the attention of my friend or colleague. I highly dislike conflict and will engage in a direct confrontation only when I believe the cost of inaction to be higher than the pain of action.
Frequently, the avoiding style can cause more harm than good, especially if problems are left to fester unattended. I have often left situations unaddressed and found myself putting out fires that could have been prevented with early intervention.
However, sometimes the avoiding style is appropriate. You hear people say, “Choose your battles”; not every disagreement is worth a confrontation. Some things are better ignored, for example when someone is trying to pick a fight or if the payoff is not worth the damage a confrontation might cause. Other times the avoiding style might be appropriate is when the two sides need to cool down or when more information is needed to find the best solution.
I sincerely believe that timing is everything when it comes to facing a conflict, and it is worth the wait to make sure the timing and the approach are optimal. In his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell describes the law of timing. He points out four possible outcomes:
- The wrong action at the wrong time leaders to disaster.
- The right action at the wrong time brings resistance.
- The wrong action at the right time is a mistake.
- The right action at the right time results in success.
I am still learning how to gauge the timing of conversations dealing with conflict, but hopefully I am getting better with each encounter.
Links and Resources
An article that explains the five conflict handling styles as well as the “Interest Based Relational Approach” to dealing with conflict, an approach based on the concepts of the book Getting to Yes by authors Roger Fisher, William L. Ury, and Bruce Patton
Rick Warren’ message on Resolving Conflict, part of the “You Make Me Crazy” message series
Check out the rest of this series!
The Compromising Style