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    Feb 10, 2022    |   Camille Labrie

How conflict can actually improve your relationships

…rather than hamper them

3 minute read

Written by Justin Deonarine, I/O Psychologist

It’s February, you know what that means.

As much as we try to create stable and harmonious relationships with our loved ones, there are times when we will disagree. These conflicts of perspective will differ in size and impact, but relationships are stronger when there is trust and communication. If both parties are open to discussing the problem, they can be resolved in a way that improves your relationship.

However, people approach conflict in different ways, and this can impact how easy it will be to discuss the issue at hand.

The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument describes five main approaches that people use towards conflict:

Conflict Style


Avoiding_Conflict_Style Avoiding
You look to disengage from the conflict.

Best used when: Diffusing a heated situation.

Competing_Conflict_Style Competing
You look to satisfy your needs, even if it’s at the expense of the needs of others.

Best used when: A quick decision is required (such as in an emergency).

Accommodating_Conflict_Style Accommodating
You look to satisfy the needs of others, even if it comes at the expense of your own.

Best used when: Harmony needs to be maintained, or if you realize that your idea/approach is wrong.

Compromising_Conflict_Style Compromising
You look to satisfy everyone’s needs partially, as the solution means that no one is getting everything that they wanted.

Best used when: A decision needs to be made under a time pressure, or if the situation is too complex to come to a full agreement on.

Collaborating_Conflict_Style Collaborating
You look to find a solution where everyone gets everything that they wanted.

Best used when: Seeking to achieve an ideal outcome, though it may be more difficult to do so.


How can you use this information to resolve conflict more effectively? (Or, avoid sleeping on the couch again.)

1) Understand your own approach to conflict

What emotions do you feel when you hear the word “conflict”? What is your natural reaction when faced with conflict?

We are most comfortable with one or two of the styles listed above. These are the styles that we have adopted in the past to resolve disagreements, whether or not the challenge has been resolved effectively. However, we are not limited to just the conflict styles that we are most comfortable with. With practice, we can learn to harness all of these styles.

Instead of reacting to the issue at hand with the first solution that comes to mind, step back and evaluate the situation. Is your reaction actually helping the situation? Is there a better approach? Consider the following when you are trying to balance solving the problem with maintaining the relationship…

2) Understand how the other person approaches conflict

When it comes to those closest to us, we may see things in them that they don’t see about themselves. How does the other person react to disagreements?

Navigating conflict with loved ones is a lot like the game of Chess: There’s going to be a give-and-take, and you’re going to have to make multiple moves to eventually resolve the challenge at hand. However, in order to resolve the conflict effectively (and maintain a happy relationship), try working towards a win-win solution.

Consider their approach to conflict to determine the best way to engage them.

  • If they avoid conflict, find a safe way to have a conversation with them.
  • If they tend to concede, ask them to share their needs so that you can find a solution that works for everyone.
  • If they usually try to win the argument, explain what you need from them and see if you can come to a win-win solution.

Win-win solutions require both parties to come to the table and trust each other enough to discuss the issue openly and honestly. This is one of the pillars of a solid relationship.

Applying this to information professional relationships

Remember that this information can apply to both personal and professional relationships.

In a professional setting, consider the following when deciding how to approach the conversation:

  • How complex is the issue?
  • How important is the issue to me? How important is the issue to them?
  • How much time do we have to resolve this conflict?
  • Do we trust each other enough to be open about our needs and concerns?
  • How important is our relationship?
One last piece of advice

I mentioned above that trust is a pillar of a solid relationship, both in the personal and professional worlds. However, there is another important pillar that was hopefully inferred throughout this post: Communication.

The strongest relationships are built on both trust and communication. Keep this in mind when applying the advice provided above.

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Filed under: Conflict