Conflict and Type

© Copyright 2010 Pamela Hollister
Please ask permission to reproduce this article. pamhollister@thepeopleprocess.com

Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann developed one approach to understanding conflict-handling styles that has been used to research the style most used by each of the types. Using a model developed earlier by Robert Blake and Jane Mouton (1964) for categorizing management styles, Thomas and Kilmann identified two dimensions of behavior involved in managing conflict with another party: concern for one’s own interests and concern for the other person’s interests. They labeled these Assertiveness and Cooperativeness, respectively. Depending on the degree to which a person proportions his or her energy into each of these dimensions, one of the styles will be engaged.

The 16 personality types respond to conflict according to their preferences. According to the Thomas-Kilmann Model, none of the styles are inherently good or bad. Each is appropriate for some situations and each is also inappropriate or less effective for other situations. The model describes five different approaches to conflict according to how people think about the importance of a task versus the importance of their relationship with the people they are working with – Competing, Collaborating, Compromising, Avoiding, Accommodating. The main point of the model is to encourage people to be purposeful in how they confront and collaborate with others, rather than relying on their natural – and often inappropriate tendencies.

In the Competing category, behavior is based on a high attempt to satisfy one’s own interests and a low attempt to satisfy the other party’s interests. A person chooses to use power to win with his or her position. This style is appropriate in situations requiring an emergency decision, where there is no other option and someone must be willing to take the tough stand, or where self-protection is essential. The downside of this style is that it intimidates others to the point where problems may go underground and develop into actions that escalate the conflict. The personality types we find in this category are the ENTJ and ESTJ males.

In the Accommodating category, behavior is based on giving up one’s own interests in order to satisfy the other party’s interests. A choice is made to yield. This style is appropriate when the issue is not of great importance to you and harmony is, or when the other party has all the power. The downside is that if used excessively, neither you nor others have an opportunity to understand your real strength. We find the ENFP and ESFP personality types in this section.

In the Avoiding category, behavior in which there is no attempt to satisfy either one’s own or the other party’s interests is found. A choice is made to remain apart from interactive engagement on the issue. This style is appropriate when the issue is of no importance to you or when used as a strategy to buy time for thinking or “cooling down,” or if the other person has unyielding power over you. The downside is that issues may persist and remain unresolved. The types we find in this category are the INTJ, ISTJ, ISFJ, and INFJ.

In the Compromising category, behavior in which each party sacrifices some of this or her own interests in order to satisfy some of the interests of the other is found. Each person negotiates to win some personal interests in exchange for yielding others. This style is useful when the issue is if some importance but there is not time for a full-fledged collaborative process. It is also a fallback process when collaboration is not going to produce a fully win/win solution. This downside is that there may be missed opportunity for a more creative solution that would increase resources, productivity and satisfaction. The types we find in this category are the ENTJ and ESTJ females, and the ISTP, INTP, ESTP, ENTP of both genders.

And, finally, in the Collaborating category, behavior that seeks a way to satisfy fully both parties’ interests – a win/win solution is found. Issues are examined that are important to both people and commitment is made to exploration of alternative resolutions that address all concerns. The downside is that the process may involve more time than is available. The types found in this group include the ESFJ and ENFJ.

Pamela Hollister
Author, The PEOPLE Process
November 10, 2009
Source: Wired for Conflict; Sondra S. VanSant

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a trademark or registered trademark of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Trust in the United States and other countries.