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The Confrontational Approach

Approaches to Conflict

Conflicts evoke instinctive responses. But once people move beyond instinct and instead allow themselves to be guided by their intellect, they can choose which approach to take when disputes arise.

There are five possible approaches. These are:

  • Avoidance — this is unassertive and uncooperative behavior. It involves abdicating any responsibility for the outcome of the conflict and ignoring your own interests and the interests of the other party, leaving it to fate.
  • Accommodation — this is behavior that is cooperative but unassertive. If you follow this path, you will ignore your own interests in favor of the other person’s interests. But then you are surrendering, which can be frustrating in the long term.
  • Acceptance — this approach involves nearly equal parts of assertiveness and cooperation, but cooperation is slightly higher. You sacrifice some of your own aims to reach an outcome that is minimally acceptable to you both. You lose more than you gain, but you do gain.
  • Collaboration — this approach is equal in terms of cooperation and assertiveness, and you attempt to maximize the gains of both parties. It is different from acceptance, which involves a minimal solution. Using the collaboration approach, you try to find the best result for all.
  • Competition — this approach is the triumph of assertiveness over cooperation. At the extreme end of this spectrum, the desire to achieve your goal can make you ruthless and inconsiderate. You make no attempt to find any form of joint solution.

It is important to be aware of the different approaches people may take to a conflict. It is also, of course, important to know when it is appropriate for you to use each approach.


Use an avoidance approach when there is no need for an immediate decision and when more information is required to make the decision. Avoidance is useful when emotions are running too high and a more competitive approach would result in loss for all.


Accommodation is a suitable approach when you are in the wrong, and when the impact upon the other party is more important than the impact upon you.


Use an acceptance approach when the parties involved are equal and a stalemate is likely. This approach works well when a temporary settlement is needed and collaboration and competition would not work.


Use a collaborative approach when you need to gain the commitment of the other party. Collaboration works well when the feelings and emotions of all parties need to be explored and you have plenty of time.


Use competition when speed is crucial or when the other party would take advantage of the situation if you did not compete. Competition is the best approach when the decision is vital to your survival.

Now that you are familiar with the different possible approaches to conflict, you have a wide range of conflict responses to choose from. They will help you to ensure that your calm intellect triumphs over your instincts, making it easier to deal with difficult disputes.