Five Major Types of Responses to Conflict

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Conflict arises between people when they have differing needs, beliefs or goals. According to the Foundation Coalition, the average person experiences about five conflicts per day, and the way we respond to them not only impacts our chances of resolving them, but may also affect our emotional and physical well-being.


People often avoid conflict because of fear of failure or personal harm, but they may also simply wish to avoid the unpleasantness of openly dealing with it. While this response to conflict obviously lacks a defense of your own self-interests, there are times when it is the most appropriate response. If you are in conflict with a more powerful person or group, if it is not the best time for dealing with the conflict or if you simply want to reduce tensions, avoidance may be your best choice.


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Competition is a common response to conflict and involves a high degree of self-assertiveness. When seeing that your goals are achieved is more important to you than avoiding unpleasantness or maintaining smooth relationships, competition is an appropriate response. If this is your response, you will stand your ground, debate your point and make certain that your views are considered.


Accommodation is a cooperative response to conflict that helps ensure peace and goodwill among the subjects of the conflict and a reasonable solution to the problem. It is characterized by a willingness to forgo your own agenda in favor of moving forward and resolving the conflict. In work situations this mode can be productive, but if you use your willingness to sacrifice in one conflict as leverage in other conflicts, it can be counterproductive.


Compromise is an appropriate response to a conflict when the importance of realizing your personal goals is about equal to the importance of maintaining a good relationship. It involves negotiating between the parties so that a final common ground is agreed to.


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Collaboration is a cooperative response to conflict that aims to meet the needs of all parties as much as possible. It is an important and productive response, especially to conflicts in the workplace. By listening to all concerns, analyzing goals, and dealing peaceably with the differences, it is possible for conflicting parties to not only resolve their conflict but to meet, to some extent at least, the needs of all parties. It is appropriate when the stability of the relationship is necessary for the achievement of everyone’s goals.