business career entrepreneur success

Five Responses to Conflict

It can be tempting to avoid conflict. But, in most situations, it’s better to respond to it. But how do you respond? Different styles exist and knowing which one suits which situation can help you resolve conflicts effectively.

Conflict analysts Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann have classified people’s reactions to conflict into five categories:

  • competing,
  • collaborating,
  • compromising,
  • avoiding, and 
  • accommodating.

These responses vary in their level of assertiveness. They can also be described as either more, or less, cooperative in their approach.


A competing response is very assertive but low on cooperation. A person using this approach considers her needs as more important than others’ needs. Those who favor this response tend to be goal-oriented and would rather risk a relationship than make compromises. Sometimes, this response is interpreted as aggressive and confrontational.

A competing response isn’t always a negative response. In some situations it’s necessary, for example: 

  • when you need to act decisively and without hesitation as in a crisis situation,
  •  if you’re in a position of authority and need to carry out unpopular actions, or
  • when you have to deal with employees who are taking advantage of the company or an individual in some way.

In addition, a competing approach may be used for issues crucial to company well-being when you know you’re right, and in situations when you want to protect others from their own bad choices.