Conflict is an inevitable part of life. How you manage conflict when you encounter it can determine how successful you are at resolving the conflict and reaching successful solutions. There are a multitude of conflict management strategies available with their own benefits and drawbacks.
An avoidance strategy is exactly what it sounds like. Instead of facing the problem and dealing with the conflict, you avoid the issue altogether. While this may provide temporary harmony, it will not solve the problem, causing the conflict to surface again. It is usually classified as a lose-lose approach. An example of this would be ignoring a roommate's dirty dishes. It might avoid a fight, but the dishes will continue to pile up, inevitably forcing the conflict to surface again.
An accommodation conflict strategy involves one side making concessions to another side. It is typically classified as a lose-win approach, as the person making concessions does not receive anything for their efforts, but the recipient of the concession wins. This can avoid a confrontation, but it usually leaves one side feeling bitter and unhappy. An example of this strategy might occur when a boyfriend gives up drinking because his girlfriend doesn't approve. He has made a concession to avoid a fight.
A competitive approach to conflict occurs when at least two mutually exclusive solutions are presented for a problem and one must be selected. This is classified as a win-lose approach, as only one solution can be selected. While this can, at times, encourage effective solution development in large groups by developing an incentive for putting out one's best work, it can also serve to enhance tensions in smaller groups. An example of this might be a contest in the workplace for designing the packaging for a new product. If the point of conflict is a lack of ideas, the approach is the competition over whose idea will be selected.
Compromise is a conflict management strategy where all parties involved make a sacrifice to achieve a common goal. It is usually classified as a lose-lose approach, as each side must give up something of importance. This approach can be a successful one in long-term relationships but may breed frustration in short-term engagements, leading to dissatisfaction with the final product of interaction. An example of compromise might be a parent allowing a child to attend a party, but the child agreeing to be home earlier than they would like to be.
Collaboration occurs when parties involved in a conflict work together to develop a solution that meets everyone's needs. This approach is classified as a win-win strategy. It usually results in the development of a solution not previously considered in the conflict. Collaboration works best when there is plenty of time to develop a solution, and the amount of people involved is small enough to facilitate meaningful conversation. An example of this might be a group of people pooling money together to buy multiple game controllers for a video game console to solve the problem of having to take turns.