We've been helping clients resolve differences for over 20 years and have significant experience in identifying root causes such as competing priorities, individual or styles differences, etc. Our negotiating skills and backgrounds in labor relations, arbitration, contract negotiations, and vendor management provide a rich context from which we draw best practices. Additionally, our knowledge of different assessment instruments has allowed us to chose a time-tested model that forms the basis for the Thomas-Kilmann Instrument (TKI for short).
With the TKI, we're able to help clients identify their primary styles for resolving differences (scroll down to see the different styles). The TKI is based
on a model of five different methods for resolving differences that evaluates behaviors on two axes. One axis measures
assertive and non-assertive behaviors; the other, cooperative and
uncooperative behaviors. Through a self questionnaire, clients typically
discover methods that they may overuse or underuse.
It's important to emphasize that no one style for resolving differences is correct for every situation. Our goal in utilizing the TKI is to help individuals, teams, and organizations develop or enhance specific skill sets in each of the areas identified in the TKI so that differences can be managed situationally, employing the best methods, based on the unique circumstances of the current situation. Here is a summary
of the TKI's five primary modes of identifying and resolving differences:
Primary Styles for Resolving Differences
Competing - Although this style is assertive and uncooperative, it may be an effective style to employ when decisive or quick action is required; when issues require an unpopular course of action; or when responding to others who are employing competing behaviors.
Accommodating -This style is cooperative and non-assertive. It is most effective when used to satisfy another person's needs. It can be an effective goodwill gesture that helps to maintain a cooperative relationship or simply a method of avoiding conflict when the current issue is more important to one person than the other.
Avoiding - This style is neither assertive nor cooperative. Instead, conflict is avoided. Although this description may produce a negative connotation, there are instances where avoidance is the best method of handling conflict. Examples of this would be when there are more important issues to resolve, when more information needs to be gathered, when people need to regain perspective and composure after tensions have been expressed, etc.
Compromising - This is a style that is the intermediate position on the assertiveness and cooperation axis. It can be highly effective when goals are only somewhat important; when two opponents with equal power have competing priorities; when parties experiencing the conflict are under time pressures; or when collaboration or competition efforts have failed to be successful.
Collaborating - A style that is often the basis for win-win solutions, collaborating is both cooperative and assertive. Collaboration can be time consuming, so although it appears to be the most effective style of the five, it is best used when the parties involved have priorities that are too important to be compromised; when seeking an elegant solution that integrates diverse thinking or approaches; or where there is an interpersonal relationship in need of mending.