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When to Avoid Conflict and When to Engage

There are two kinds of “avoiding” to keep in mind: good avoiding and bad avoiding. Good avoiding is when you purposely leave a conflict situation in order to collect more information, wait for tempers to calm down, or because you’ve concluded that what you first thought was a vital issue isn’t that important after all. Bad avoiding, however, is when the topic is very important to both persons (and to the organization), but you aren’t comfortable with confronting other people: Instead, you’re inclined to sacrifice your needs for others — which undermines your self-esteem, leaves you perpetually dissatisfied, and prevents you from learning from others.

Bottom line: Only avoid when that approach to conflict serves to satisfy your needs as well as the needs of others — whether in the short term or long term. But don’t avoid conflict simply because disagreement and discord are uncomfortable to you. With awareness and practice (which builds self-confidence), you can easily learn to get both your needs and the other person’s needs met — for the best of both worlds.

                        author

Ralph Kilmann

Ralph H. Kilmann, Ph.D., is CEO and Senior Consultant at Kilmann Diagnostics in Newport Coast, California. Formerly, he was the George H. Love Professor of Organization and Management at the Katz School of Business, University of Pittsburgh—which was his professional home for thirty years. He earned both his B.S. and M.S.… MORE >

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