I have been struggling with a conflict avoider over the last few months. I simply cannot get this person to engage in meaningful conversation to move toward resolution. As a learning experience it has been somewhat fascinating but in the day to day it’s been fairly frustrating.
There are five major ways that people deal with conflicts that arise.
- Avoid – truly these folks just avoid the conflict at all costs.
- Accommodate – these folks give in to the demands of others. It’s fast but then they rarely get what they want.
- Compete – these are your typical "win-lose" folks. They must get what they want and you must not get what you want.
- Compromise – these folks meet in the middle with neither really getting what they want. So neither person wins but neither really loses either.
- Collaborate – these folks want to find a way for both parties to win and will work together until they do.
Depending on the situation, any of these can be very effective ways to resolve conflict. If you’re interested, you can determine your preferred method of dealing with conflict with this simple test (pdf). I’m generally a collaborator, but have certainly used each of these methods at different times.
But lately I’ve been at an impasse. There is a situation involving both money and credibility that I would like to see change. I have raised my concerns with the person who has the power to change the situation who merely says to me "I understand." Well, that is a mighty conversation stopper. In fact we have had the same exact conversation several times over the last few months. My concerns have been heard and allegedly understood. But there is no action to resolve the underlying issue.
I am befuddled. Is it that the person merely does not care about my concerns? Or is the person simply avoiding a difficult conversation? How does one get an avoider to engage? Is it possible? Or is the appropriate response to avoid the avoider until something has changed?