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How To Discover The Appropriate Conflict Management Style

As we noted in the post The Five Choices We Make In Conflict Resolution, conflict management is essential to effective ministry and being able to employ various conflict management styles improves the likelihood of a healthy outcome. We introduced the Thomas-Kilman Conflict Mode Instrument and its five modes of conflict management as an approach to consider.

In his book, Discover Your Conflict Management Style, Speed Leas builds on Thomas-Kilman’s work and presents a Conflict Inventory of 45 questions that identifies six different styles of managing differences: Persuading, Compelling, Avoiding, Collaborating, Negotiating and Supporting. The instrument scores you from 0-15 in each style, revealing how likely you are to choose a particular style.

Leas developed the instrument primarily for use in churches to help leaders and members gain insight and skill in addressing conflicts by becoming aware of the range of conflict strategies available as well as their own preferred style.

Choosing A Conflict Management Style


Persuasion strategies are the most frequently used of all conflict management styles and is the strategy where you attempt to change another’s point of view. With this approach you assume the other is incorrect or uniformed and needs to change for the situation or relationship to improve. Persuasion tends not to work in situations of low trust or high levels of conflict. Persuasion is more likely to succeed when:

  • The other is unclear on what they want
  • The other doesn’t have strong opinions on the subject or situation
  • The other trusts your motives
  • You have prestige, competence or credibility in the eyes of the other


Compelling strategies use emotional pressure or authority to force someone to do something you want them to do.  When used over a long period of time, a compelling style deteriorates relationships and organizations. Compelling or forcing strategies are more likely to succeed when:

  • Rights or policies are violated
  • Time is of the essence
  • All other means have failed
  • On important and/or unpopular courses of action


In this third category, Leas combines four distinct conflict management styles that have similar results. Avoiding is when you evade or stay away from the conflict. Ignoring a conflict is acting as if it isn’t happening. Fleeing is removing yourself from the conflict. Accommodating is when you go along with the other. Procrastination or putting off dealing with the conflict are common themes of these four styles, and are more likely to succeed when:

  • The cost of working a problem through is greater than the value of having worked it through
  • People or the organization are particularly fragile
  • People need time to cool down
  • Differences are trivial
  • You are powerless to effect change


When you collaborate you work together with others on a resolution to the conflict. This joint problem solving approach is more likely to succeed when:

  • Everyone agrees to participate fully in this approach
  • Stakes are high and require everyone’s buy-in
  • There is sufficient time
  • There is an able facilitator


In bargaining and negotiating you are trying to get as much as you can and assume you won’t get everything you want. Bargaining and negotiating requires a willingness to back off from some of your original demands and are more likely to succeed when:

  • Both parties are willing
  • The issue is not dichotomous or parties don’t have mutually exclusive goals
  • There is not power or rank disparity between the parties
  • The issue being bargained or negotiated is divisible


Supporting strategies makes the assumption the other is the one with the problem, and it your job to not fix it but to provide resources for the other to deal with the problem. Supporting strategies typically involve communication and listening skills and are more likely to succeed when:

  • Two parties are in conflict and try to get you to take a side
  • It is not your responsibility to deal with the problem or conflict
  • Someone is under high stress
  • The problem is outside your relationship with either party


Leas reminds readers that a person’s conflict management style should change, sometimes dramatically, from situation to situation. Further, each style can be an appropriate approach depending upon the situation and no style should be considered as inferior to the other.

Finally, Leas points out the best time to use his resource is prior to a conflict when you can take the necessary time to learn about the six styles, discern your preferred styles and contemplate when and how to use them.

Posted on August 2, 2016

Jim Baker

Jim is a Church Organizational Leadership and Management Coach, Consultant and Trainer. Throughout his career Jim has demonstrated a passion for showing Pastors and Ministers how to use organizational tools for church and personal growth and health.

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“For I may be absent in body, but I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see how well ordered you are and the strength of your faith in Christ.” Colossians 2:5