Assessment : What's Your Conflict Resolution Style?

Stephen M. Dent, founding partner of the consulting firm Partnership Continuum, Inc., is an award-winning organizational consultant working with such clients as USWEST, Inc. Northwest Airlines, AT&T, GE Capital Services, the U.S. Postal Service, NASA, Bank of America and Exult.  He lives in Minneapolis MN. and can be contacted at e-mail or phone +1 612 375 0323 

"What's Your Conflict Resolution Style ?" is adapted from "Increasing Your Win/Win Orientation" workbook, Partnership Continuum, Inc.

Developing an effective Strategic Framework - and having a successful partnership - takes strong conflict resolution skills.  

At each step along the way, problems and differences of opinions may arise. You and your partner(s) may disagree about your vision, mission, and/or strategic directions. Will you be able to resolve your disagreements ? Some partnerships crumble because one company changes, or the marketplace changes, or issues related to the partners' values, ethics, and cultures are not adequately addressed. When confronted with change or a challenging issue, how will you respond ?

"Win/win orientation" is one of the Six Partnering Attributes™ that we teach. One way we assess an individual's win/win orientation is by looking at his or her conflict resolution style.

Which of the following best describes how you handle conflicts ?

  1. I don't like conflicts, and I try to avoid them. I would rather not be forced into a situation where I feel uncomfortable or under stress. When I do find myself in that kind of situation, I say very little, and I leave as soon as possible.
  2. To me, conflicts are challenging. They're like contests or competitions -- opportunities for me to come up with solutions. I can usually figure out what needs to be done, and I'm usually right.
  3. I try to see conflicts from both sides. What do I need ? What does the other person need ? What are the issues involved? I gather as much information as I can, and I keep the lines of communication open. I look for a solution that meets everyone's needs.
  4. When faced with a conflict or even a potential conflict, I tend to back down or give in rather than cause problems. I may not get what I want, but that's a price I'm willing to pay for keeping the peace.
  5. I want to resolve the conflict as quickly as possible. I give up something I want or need, and I expect the other person to do the same. Then we can both move forward.


If you chose #1, your conflict resolution style is evader. This is a lose-lose strategy. When one partner avoids a conflict, neither partner has an opportunity to resolve it. Both partners lose.

If you chose #2, your conflict resolution style is fighter. This is a win-lose/lose-win strategy. Either you win and your partner loses, or you lose and your partner wins. It's the survival of the fittest. But conflicts are not contests, and this style precludes the possibility of finding a fair solution.

If you chose #3, your conflict resolution style is negotiator. This is a win-win strategy. Both you and your partner have the chance to express your needs and resolve the conflict in a mutually acceptable way. While this strategy may sound simple, it's actually the most difficult to use. It requires each of you to articulate, prioritize, and satisfy your own needs while also addressing the other person's needs.

If you chose #4, your conflict resolution style is harmonizer. This is a lose-win strategy. You lose because your needs aren't met. Your partner's needs are met, but the partnership suffers because you eventually become resentful and unsatisfied.

If you chose #5, your conflict resolution style is compromiser. This is a lose-lose strategy. Both you and your partner give up something you need just to make the conflict "go away." Invariably, you end up addressing the same issues later.

© 1999 Partnership Continuum Inc.

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