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Conflict Resolution Newsletter
by Alternative Resolutions, LLC 

March 2012 - Vol 2, Issue 3
In This Issue
Company News & Recent Publications
Avoidance and Accommodation as Conflict Strategies
Theory Applicaition Tips
Conflict Resolution Events
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 New website feature: our prior newsletters are now available on our website!!!
Company News and Recent Publications
New website feature:  our prior newsletters are now available on our website!!!
"Smart Biz-High Cost of Conflict" will be  published in the March April edition of 270 Inc Business Magazine.  Email us for a copy at info@alternativeresolutions.net.


We're thrilled to announce some website changes featuring some new products and services that we have developed over the past year and a half.  The training page features information about two  new programs that we started.  One is a practical hands on negotiation workshop that we have offered at several universities and institutes.  The second is a full day listening skills class which explores this complex aspect of the communication process.  Healthcare business mediation is the new feature on the mediation page.



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Last month we summarized the five conflict strategies-- avoidance, competition, compromise accommodation and collaboration--and reviewed some general characteristics of each. In the next few issues of our newsletter we will explore each style in greater detail.
And as always we end with real concrete practical tips that you can use immediately at work or home.


Avoidance and Accommodation as Conflict Strategies

Avoidance and accommodation are both low on the assertiveness scale.  This means that someone using these strategies is generally not getting their individual needs met in conflict situations.   This has various associated costs and benefits.  The benefits of avoidance include reduced stress, saved time or reduced risks, whereas with accommodation, restored harmony, reduction of loss and enhanced relationships are the potential gains.  On the other hand, the costs of avoidance include resentment, potential delays and decreased communication.  For accommodation the downside risks are loss of motivation and self-respect. 

Avoidance as a Conflict Strategy

Avoidance is generally the denial of conflict, treating it like an ostrich whose head is buried in the sand.  The avoider usually side steps an issue by either changing the topic or withdrawing from the controversy.  Sometimes this is a calculated strategic response and may be effective.  For example a company may ignore minor complaints from disappointed consumers. In relationships avoidance of conflict may result in lower satisfaction but it can also be used for stability and predictability.

When analyzing avoidance the basic question an individual faces is whether to avoid or engage.  You may not be conscious that you are making a real choice.  People who experience trauma tend to avoid conflict. Wilmot, William and Joyce Hocker, Interpersonal Conflict.  New York, NY: McGraw Hill, 2011. Print.   Engagement and avoidance are both good options depending on the circumstances. The danger is when someone develops a rigid style for responding to certain types of conflict or certain people.  This avoidance cycle, see our June 2011 newsletter article on destructive conflict processes, has a chilling effect on communication.  The cycle looks like this:  we think of conflict as bad, anxiety increases as we experience conflict, the conflict gets out of control and then we handle it poorly.   The spiral of destruction just continues.

Another cycle that is evident in relationships is avoid and criticize.   Criticism of another's actions or complaints substitute for taking action and engaging with the individual's whose conduct you have an issue with.

The effectiveness of avoidance as a conflict strategy depends on  culture.  In collectivistic or high-context cultures, such as Asian societies, social hierarchy and sensitivity to people's feelings is of paramount importance.   Use of avoidance thus preserves the status quo.  In such cultures your colleagues will talk to you about healing wounds and making amends.  By contrast, in low-context or  individualistic culture like the United States, your coworkers may urge you to "fight on" and escalate the conflict.  In these situations use  of avoidance may be seen as a weakness.  Id.

Tactics are specific actions that an individual chooses for a response.  Researchers have identified the following four categories of avoidance tactics:  denial and equivocation ("that's not a problem"), shifting or avoiding topics, noncommittal remarks and irreverent remarks. Id. at 155.

Accommodation as a Conflict Strategy

With this strategy the engagement choice is to yield one's needs to another person or cause. An accommodator likes to please others- the family, the team or the group. Accommodation is one of the most common responses but it is the least noticed. This is because it is not overt. The accommodator may not express a countervailing preference for a different restaurant choice when  her spouse says, "Let's go to out for Greek food", but she really wanted Italian.  If an issue is important to one person then accommodating their needs is a good choice.  Accommodation to a more seasoned colleague can be a good strategy  of managing a workplace conflict.  On the other hand, if accommodation is overused it can create resentment.


Theory Application TIPS

Use accommodation as a strategy when:

         An issue is more important to someone else

         There are hard feelings that need repair

         You are overruled

         Others have a better position and have persuaded you

Use avoidance as a strategy when:

         There is little to gain

         Issues are unimportant

         There is a need to buy time

         Cooling off period is needed

Conflict Resolution in the Community:  Upcoming Events

March 13, 2012 - Negotiation for Scientists, Society for Toxicology Annual Meeting, San Fransisco, CA

March 19-23, 2012 - Basic Mediation Training, Maryland State Bar Association, Baltimore, MD


March 30, 2012 - " Negotiate, Negotiate, Negotiate" "You're Not Supposed to be Here", Women's Leadership Conference, George Washington University, Mount Vernon Campus



We look forward to being your partners in productive, proactive conflict resolution endeavors. If you are a new reader or didn't request a copy previously please email us for a free copy of our organizational needs assessment.  Put your organization in a conflict healthy environment.



Ellen F. Kandell, Esq.
Alternative Resolutions, LLC