Whether you are trying to manage conflict between others or are in the midst of a conflict yourself, the one thing you should keep in mind is that the key to effective conflict management is everyone should be a winner. A conflict is never successfully resolved and will come back to haunt you in the future if someone walks away a loser. Everyone needs to be a winner so that there are no hard feelings that will rekindle at some later date, maybe at the slightest provocation. But, how can everyone walk away a winner? It’s not always easy but it is possible.
A Look at Outdated Models of Conflict Resolution
The model of conflict resolution which many people are still operating under was developed back in the 1970s by two men named Ralph Kilmann and Kenneth Thomas. In this model they set out what they defined conflict as falling into at least one of five different styles. These included:
If you look carefully at those styles, those models of conflict you will see that typically one side wins and the other loses. Or, as in the case of compromising or accommodating, neither side loses but neither side gets what they really want; neither side is a winner. In today’s acuity training model, assertiveness leads to everyone walking away with something they want and thus, everyone wins.
Assertiveness as a Method of Conflict Management – How Does That Work?
The problem most people have in understanding assertiveness as a means of conflict management or conflict resolution is that altogether too often ‘assertiveness’ is confused with aggression. When you are assertive you are not aggressive as you would be in the combative model. You are not trying to argue a point you are merely asserting what you see and what you want. You are willing to concede (compromise) a few points so that the other side walks away with something they want but each side asserts what they want and are willing to work through the conflict so that both can get some, if not all, of what they came to the table looking to gain.
You Are Not on the Attack!
The key to assertiveness is to understand that you are not on the attack. You are not belittling the opinions of others or in any way, shape or form denigrating their stance in the conflict. What you are doing, on the other hand, is expressing your view and what you want to happen. In the 1980s it was defined as making ‘I statements.’ “I see this. I want that. I feel this way.” And, the list goes on. It’s not about “You must be stupid because you want something other than what I want.” Rather, it’s about “I understand how you feel but this is how I feel. This is what I want. Can we not find a way for both of us to get what we want?”
So you see, being assertive isn’t being combative and it certainly isn’t avoiding the issues at hand. What assertiveness is may be defined as a good blend of being accommodating, compromising and collaborative. You are willing to accommodate the other and compromise on some key points. You will collaborate with them to help them get what they need so that you get what you need. It’s a new paradigm based on asserting your wants and needs without denigrating what the other wants and needs. Often referred to as the ADR model, Alternative Dispute Resolution, those older models are blended with a healthy mix of assertiveness and everyone walks away a winner.