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Handout 1: Styles Of Conflict Engagement



Importance of Outcome

Importance of Relationship




























The grid above displays five styles of conflict engagement. Each style’s placement reflects its emphasis on relationship and outcome. Along the left side of the grid, the importance of the relationship between the conflicting parties can be ranked low, medium, or high. Across the top of the grid, the importance of the conflict’s outcome can be ranked low, medium, or high. Each combination of the two rankings represents a different style of conflict engagement. For example:  

·        Someone who feels that building the relationship is of high importance, and that getting the desired outcome of the conflict is of low importance, may be more likely to accommodate a partner’s wishes.

·        Someone who feels that the outcome is of high importance and the relationship is of low importance may compete by demanding that things be done his/her way.

·        Someone who feels that both the relationship and the outcome are of low importance may simply avoid trying to resolve the conflict.

·        When someone feels that the outcome and the relationship are equally important, the best options are to compromise or to work collaboratively to achieve a result both partners find satisfying.


Think of a recent conflict you had with your partner, a child, or someone else with whom you have a relationship that is important to you. Looking back on the situation, consider the following questions:

·        Would you say that your primary approach was accommodation, avoidance, compromise, collaboration, or competition?

·        Did this approach reflect the value you would assign to the importance of the outcome and the importance of the relationship? If so, how? If not, why not?


·        What might you have done differently to resolve the conflict while supporting your partner or enhancing your relationship?


·        What have you found to be the most effective way to handle conflict with your partner?


How has constructive conflict resolution enhanced your relationship?

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