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Wise Wednesday: How People with Different Conflict Styles Can Work Together



When it comes to conflict, most of us have a default approach: we either tend to avoid it or seek it out. The avoiders among us shy away from disagreements, value harmony and positive relationships, and will often try to placate people or even change the topic. Avoiders don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or disrupt team dynamics. Seekers (and I’m one of them!) seem eager to engage in disagreements. They tend to care about directness and honesty, lose their patience when others aren’t being equally direct, and don’t mind ruffling feathers.

Neither style is better or worse, and your default style is probably due to several factors: your past experiences with conflict, the conventions of the culture you’re from or work in, the organizational context, and even gender norms. And while each of us generally has a preferred approach, it’s rare for a person to avoid or seek out conflict all the time. More likely, you adjust your style based on the context, with whom you’re having the conflict, and other things going on in your office. For example, you might be a seeker with your mom and an avoider with your boss...

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