Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Mrs. Nice Guy

"Uh oh. There are a couple of guys walking towards me. If I'm to maintain my image of myself as a nice person, I'll step to one side and make way from them. But my homework assignment is to practise operating in my least favourite mode. So, this time, I'm going to keep walking and force them to make way for me. Oh my God, I'm a total jerk. Oh, but look at that. They made way for me. Nothing terrible happened."

What was that all about? It was my homework assignment from the second day of my workshop entitled Essential Communication Skills in Conflict at Vancouver Island University. The assignment called on me to practice using my least favourite conflict resolution style, which in my case was competition.

One of the big Ahas I had that day was that there are no good or bad conflict resolution styles. Rather, each one has its uses. Each is helpful in some situations and unhelpful in others.

Each style can be measured by its levels of assertiveness and cooperation. Another big Aha for me was that a conflict resolution style could be highly assertive as well as highly cooperative. My previous thinking had been that assertiveness and cooperation were mutually exclusive.

Here’s a run-down of the styles:

Assertiveness – Low
Cooperation – Low
Behaviour – You do not engage.
Uses – When you are in imminent danger.

Assertiveness – Low
Cooperation – High
Behaviour – You give the other person what they want, and sacrifice what you want.
Uses – When there is little time for discussion, when it’s a one-off situation, and when the outcome is unimportant to you.

Assertiveness - Medium
Cooperation – Medium
Behaviour – Each of you gets some of what you want, and each of you sacrifices some of what you want.
Uses – When attempts at collaboration have failed and there is insufficient time to discuss things further, the best you may be able to achieve is compromise.

Assertiveness – High
Cooperation – Low
Behaviour – You get what you want, and sacrifice nothing.
Uses – In an emergency, when there is little or no time for discussion, someone needs to take charge.

Assertiveness – High
Cooperation – High
Behaviour – Both of you get what you want, and neither of you sacrifices anything.
Uses – If you have the time to pursue it, collaboration produces win-win decisions, to which the stakeholders have a high level of commitment.

Traditionally, my conflict resolution style leant towards avoidance and accommodation. Since I have bought into Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community and have been learning about consensus decision making and nonviolent communication, I have grown better at compromise and collaboration. I’m still uncomfortable about being competitive. But watch out –- I’m practising.


ms toast burner said...

Interesting workshop!

Just reading over those different styles, I can recognize my tendencies and how which ones I use really differ depending on whom I'm with.

It's like night and day the difference with, say an acquaintance and my family!

We're not going to be seeing you roller derby-ing around the streets of Nanaimo are we?

Judy Roberts said...

Who knows, Marnie. Roller derby today, demolition derby tomorrow. Heh heh. Just kidding. :-)