We all have to cope with conflict in our lives, it’s a fact of life. But wouldn’t knowing how conflict management styles vary among people help us deal with it a little better?
According to Thomas, K.W., and R.H. Kilmann, there are five conflict management styles:
- Accommodating – Where you are the one who is fully cooperating in order to solve the conflict.
- Collaborating – Where you both try and sort out the problem equally.
- Compromising – Where no-one really gets what they want out of the situation.
- Avoiding – This is where you simply avoid the other person.
- Competing – This is where you go all out to achieve your goals.
Accommodating and collaborating are the two most cooperative conflict management styles. Competing and avoiding are the uncooperative styles. Competing and collaborating are considered to be the more assertive conflict management styles. Avoiding and accommodating are not. As you would expect, compromising is in the middle of cooperating and assertiveness.
Now we come onto personality types. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (Personality Test) is based on a person choosing between a set of two indicators. This leads to a four-letter personality type. All four letters are important in determining a person’s character. The last two letters are called the ‘conflict pairs’.
These are the ‘Feeling/Thinking’ preferences and the ‘Judging/Perceiving’ preferences. It is between these two pairs that the greatest areas of conflict lie.
The ‘Thinking/Feeling’ Preferences and Conflict Management Styles
When a person is dealing with a conflict they are most likely to use their thinking or feeling part of their personality at the beginning.
People who are thinkers generally prefer to look at the facts of an argument, the evidence and the logical explanation. Feelers do the opposite and are more concerned with the emotions or any special circumstances surrounding the conflict.
You can see how two people with these different conflict management styles would find it very difficult to come to an agreement. The thinking person would want stone, cold facts and the feeler would be soaking up the emotions.
The ‘Judging/Perceiving’ Preferences and Conflict Management Styles
When a person is trying to resolve a conflict, they are most likely to turn to their judging or perceiving sides of their personality.
People choosing the judging indicator tend to want to get things decided so that they can get on with their structured life. Perceivers are much more interested in focusing on the conflict itself and how it is impacting on others. They want to see solutions, not just a resolution.
These two conflict management styles are, again, very different and could easily cause problems within the conflict itself.
Different MBTI Personality Types and Conflict Management Styles
Now, it’s time to look at each MBTI personality type in more detail and their conflict management styles:
ISTJ – Collaborating and Accommodating
ISTJ’s are practical and logical types who will want to see an outcome to any conflict.
ISFJ – Compromising, Accommodating and Collaborating
People with ISFJ personality will want a harmonious environment, so they will do anything to resolve conflict.
INFJ – Compromising, Accommodating, and Collaborating
The INFJ personality type wants to understand people and how to get the best out of a situation so conflict is an anathema to them.
INTJ – Avoiding, Collaborating or Compromising
The INTJ personality type can be quite sceptical and have high standards, so it could be hard for them to resolve conflicts.
ISTP – Compromising or Accommodating
ISTP’s are tolerant and flexible and will use facts, not feelings, when it comes to managing conflict.
ISFP – Avoiding, Accommodating or Compromising
ISFP’s are sensitive types who dislike disagreements and conflicts and will not want to force their opinions on others.
INFP – Collaborating, Compromising or Accommodating
The INFP personality type is the most adaptable of the personality types and will try everything to resolve a conflict. They will see possibilities where others can’t.
INTP – Accommodating and Compromising
The INTP personality type will use logic and facts to solve problems but is not great dealing with people.
ESTP – Competing and Collaborating
ESTP’s are far too energetic and busy to let someone else sort out conflicts. They’ll do it themselves, but facts will bore them.
ESFP – Accommodating, Collaborating and Compromising
A friendly type that is full of common sense. A good mediator in fact.
ENFP – Competing but also Collaborative
Quick-thinking and able to see all possibilities makes ENFP’s almost unbeatable in conflicts.
ENTP – Competing but can be Collaborative
ENTP’s are amazing at finding ingenuous solutions to conflicts, but they do want to solve problems quickly.
ESTJ – Competing
ESTJ’s are practical, realistic and decisive and will be forceful in their handling of conflict.
ESFJ – Accommodating, Collaborative and Compromising
ESFJ’s are warm-hearted types and very cooperative. They’ll want to maintain good relations after the conflict is resolved.
ENFJ – Avoiding, Compromising and Collaborative
ENFJ’s are very attuned to others’ needs, so they may avoid conflict to help others fulfil their potential.
ENTJ – Competing and perhaps Collaborative
ENTJ’s are decisive and quick to assume the leadership role in a conflict. They will want the facts and then make a quick decision.
So how can this information be useful?
If you know your own MBTI personality type, you can see your corresponding conflict pairs. So, whenever you are faced with conflict, you’ll have an idea of how you’ll respond. Even better, if you know the personality types of those around you, it might be possible to predict how they’ll react too.
No matter what conflict management style you do end up using, there are guidelines when it comes to dealing with conflict:
- Always use ‘I statements’, such as “I was upset when I saw that all the milk had gone and it hadn’t been replaced.” instead of “Why didn’t you buy more milk when you were the one who finished it?”
- Set aside a time and place to discuss the problem.
- Use the person’s name or their title if appropriate.
- Acknowledge the person’s emotions and feelings.
- Don’t interrupt when the other person is talking, even if you think they are wrong.
- Leave the discussion without agreeing on a plan to move forward.
- Do something else, such as look at your phone or fidget, while the other person is talking.
- Use humour or make light of the situation.
Everyone has a different conflict management style. Knowing what it is and how to acknowledge it will enable all parties to work through it and move on.