girls arguing

From home to work and everywhere in between, there is always the potential for conflict. The ways of responding to these tense and stressful situations can make or break relationships. In an attempt to better understand how people deal with conflict, Thomas and Kilmann developed the Conflict Mode Instrument in 1974. Their model details the five major ways individuals respond to conflict.


Couple arguing

Those who use a competing negotiation style are often assertive and unwilling to cooperate. They place their needs above the needs of others and try to manipulate the situation in their favor. They are usually more concerned with winning the fight than finding the best solution.



Individuals who use an accommodating negotiation style tend to be passive as they seek cooperation. They often neglect their needs and wants to make sure others get their way. Those who accommodate tend to be submissive, selfless and afraid of conflict.


Avoiding an argument

Avoiding is a style in which neither assertiveness nor cooperation takes place. Typically ambivalent to their own wants and desires as well as the wants and desires of others, avoiders do just that. They have no desire to be involved in the conflict and will try to sidestep the situation, postpone dealing with it, or propose that the issue be ignored.


Couple talking

Those who collaborate are both assertive and cooperative; they are the exact opposite of avoiders. Collaborators seek a solution that satisfies all concerns while taking a leadership role in the conflict resolution. Collaborating involves creative solutions that embody the wants and needs of all involved in the conflict.


Father talking to his son

Between competing and accommodating is the compromising style. Those who compromise try to find a quick solution that benefits everyone involved. Compromising frequently means both sides will give up part of their wants and desires in order to find common ground.