Type Preferences and Conflict Modes: How to manage conflict effectively By Shawn Bakker I recently worked with a large group of employees who completed both the MBTI® assessment and the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI®). This gave us a great opportunity to speak about preferences – what is more natural and comfortable for each of us, and behaviours – the actions we take in a situation. It probably comes as no surprise that our personality preferences are related to the way we usually approach conflict. Our research with people who have completed the MBTI tool and the TKI instrument show that the preference dichotomies of Extraversion-Introversion and Thinking-Feeling are related to the conflict modes individuals use more frequently. Extraversion is correlated with Collaborating Introversion is correlated with Avoiding Thinking is correlated with Competing Feeling is correlated with Accommodating By examining the interplay between E-I and T-F we can explore how individuals typically deal with conflict, as well as the common challenges of their approach. If you prefer: In conflict you are likely to: You may struggle with: ET Express higher levels of assertiveness in the pursuit of win-win solutions or satisfaction of your own concerns. Side-stepping conflict and taking time-outs, or sacrificing your desires to satisfy the concerns of others. EF Express higher levels of cooperation to come up with win-win situations or help others satisfy their concerns. Fighting for your position, even when you are right, or taking a break from the conflict. IT Show lower levels of cooperation and pursue what you believe is the correct approach or avoid the conflict altogether. Pursuing win-win solutions, or sacrificing your desires to satisfy the concerns of others. IF Show lower levels of assertiveness and satisfy the concerns of others or postpone and avoid the conflict. Reconciling issues to find win-win solutions, or asserting your position and competing to ensure your concerns are met. While type preferences and conflict modes are related, they are not dependant. Your preferences do not determine your behaviours. Each of us has the opportunity to exercise choice and adjust our actions to situations, even if this means using behaviours that we do not enjoy or find as comfortable. This is key to managing conflict effectively. Since conflicts are incredibly varied, we need to be able to utilize a variety of different behaviours. If we get hung up on doing what we like, or what we prefer, we limit ourselves and make the resolution of some conflicts difficult if not impossible. To help you consider if you are being flexible and adaptable enough in your approach, ask yourself the following questions based on your preferences for Extraversion-Introversion and Thinking-Feeling. Extraversion & Thinking – Are you being too assertive when you experience conflict? Do you find yourself engaging in conflict about things that are really not that important for you? Or making a bigger deal out of things than they should be? How could choosing to use the less assertive modes of Avoiding or Accommodating help you resolve some conflicts more effectively? Extraversion & Feeling – Are you too focused on cooperation? Do you find yourself paying too much attention and concern to the desires of others? Or do you have a hard time disappointing people by choosing things that don’t go their way? How could using the less cooperative modes Avoiding or Competing help you better manage conflict? Introversion & Thinking – Are you being cooperative enough? Do you find yourself avoiding conflict unless you are certain you can get what you want? Do you take enough time to understand the concerns of others? How could using the more cooperative modes of Collaborating and Accommodating help you better manage certain conflicts? Introversion & Feeling – Are you being assertive enough? Do you sacrifice your own needs and desires for the sake of others too often? Do you avoid conflict all together if others will get upset? How could using the more assertive modes of Collaborating or Competing help you resolve conflicts more effectively? Everyone will have different answers to the questions above, but they work wonders in getting people to think about the intersection of preferences and behaviours, and the challenges we encounter when we are not willing to flex our approach. I welcome all comments and feedback, and please share your own story if you have the time.