Understanding Styles of Conflict Resolution


February is quickly approaching.  That means that we are about to begin a month or more of kids being “prickly.”  If we place ourselves in a classroom, in the middle of February, it seems that life has become extremely dreary and weary.  Christmas is long gone and summer is beyond even our wishing scope.  And so, I squirm in my seat, I get bored, I throw spit wads, whisper to my neighbors, made rude noises, step on my neighbor’s shoes, give cross-eyes to the kid I don’t like.  And if all else fails, I somehow get myself into TROUBLE with one or more of my classmates.  Usually this means I either teased my way into going over the brink, or I bullied my way, or I was a victim of teasing or bullying.  Typical childhood behaviors, that somehow in February get more intense.


Cactus Army

Cactus Army (Photo credit: Harry-Harms)


According to Gini Graham Scott, Ph.D, in her Resolving Conflict, we each have a preferred style that we instantly adhere to when facing someone who seems disrespectful of us.


Competitive Style Collaborative Style
Avoidant Style  Accommodative Style


If we’re really advanced, we can select the Compromising Style,which is a combination of all four styles–and of course the one we aspire to achieve.


 Assertive folks usually choose either the Competitive or Collaborative Styles, while the unassertive of us choose the Avoidant or Accommodative Styles. And If we want to add even more segments, the Competitive and Avoidant Styles are viewed as Uncooperative (the belief that I am alone in this and will not be seeking others to help me solve it); while the Cooperative folks choose either the Collaborative or Accommodative  Styles (with the belief that I’m unable to totally take care of this myself).  Whew–got all that?


 Is it no wonder that teachers take additional training to learn how to be conflict resolution leaders?  And that the rest of us (yes, kids and adults) need some guidance on this fine art?  Most of the above is intuitive knowledge for us, but when you are seven years old (or nineteen or thirty-eight–etc) it is most helpful to have a cooler head helping us put all these pieces of the puzzle together in a way that does not escalate the situation.


I totally believe in conflict resolution as a means of stopping bullying and harmful teasing and other forms of alienation from the community.  It is when we endure exclusion from our community, in any form, that we form beliefs about our worth to the community.  And thus, we help to add to the negative beliefs of someone who desperately needs community to find him/her a valuable asset.  Our moral compass becomes fractured when we feel we are no longer a viable, contributing member of our community/family.


 So, back to conflict resolution.  It begins at very early ages, in learning how to play in the sandbox together, share toys and being aware of other’s feelings.  If every school adhered to a conflict resolution policy from K-12, we would be better serve our youth and our community.  If schools and parents work together to bring about the value that we can do better by being respectful of others, we will decrease our violence in schools and communities.


 Be gentle with others:  be aware of asking questions to understand their point of view.  Be gentle with yourself: acknowledging your feelings and what you need from others.



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2 Responses to Understanding Styles of Conflict Resolution

  1. Jnana Hodson says:

    So where does passive-aggressive kick in here? My guess is it starts off as avoidance but turns competitive, but maybe a much more complex pathway unfolds here.
    Still, I’m surprised February gets blamed, rather than dark November.

    • dearfriends says:

      You may be right about the passive-aggressive tendency, as we are very complex. I used February as my “prickly” month due to my working experience. Yours may be different. I wonder if year around schools experience a different time or not at all? Hmmm. Would be good to know. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Barb

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