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The person in the first instance of avoiding would probably come across as insensitive, condescending, and even demeaning. Because of the manner in which he left the situation, the other people involved might feel hurt or abandoned.
The person in the second instance shows regard for the other people in the conflict situation. Although he is still withdrawing, it’s more likely that everyone concerned will have an easier time understanding and accepting his avoiding behavior because the reasons for it have been explained to them.
Essentially, which conflict mode you choose and how you then use it are two very different things! Let’s consider the same principle applied to collaborating. One person may choose to express her desire for collaboration this way: “We have to discuss these issues! You have no choice! I’m tired of superficial solutions that aren’t based on our joint needs. If you don’t sit down and share your deepest concerns with me, I’ll no longer support your priorities in the workplace.”
Another person may express herself like this: “I really need your help. I’ve been very frustrated with our previous decisions, which haven’t seemed to address our most important needs. I’d like to share with you what matters most to me. And then, if you are willing, I’d really like to hear your most important concerns. Maybe we can figure out how to change the situation for both our sakes. Let’s give it a try.”
Based on basic TKI definitions, both individuals are using the collaborating mode. In the first instance, the attempt to collaborate will probably come across as bullying. Perhaps this is not the best way to elicit an open and candid dialogue about important and complex issues. In the second instance, the attempt to collaborate is more inviting— one that will likely engender mutual respect and a genuine exchange of ideas. In the end, the second approach will lead to a more creative solution, while the first approach will put the other people on the defensive and shut down a conversation that is sorely needed.
Bottom line: Choosing a mode wisely and using that mode in the most constructive way possible will go far in producing the best resolution possible—rather than generating bad feelings and a disappointing outcome.
All text and illustrations in this publication Copyright © 2009–2011 by Kilmann Diagnostics. All rights reserved. Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and MBTI are registered trademarks of the MBTI Trust, Inc. The TKI and CPP logos are trademarks or registered trademarks of CPP, Inc.
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. degrees in industrial administration from Carnegie Mellon University (1970) and a Ph.D. degree in management from the University of California, Los Angeles (1972).
Ralph is an internationally recognized authority on systems change. He has consulted for numerous corporations throughout the United States and Europe, including AT&T, Kodak, IBM, Ford, General Electric, Lockheed, Olivetti, Philips, TRW, Wolseley, and Xerox. He has also consulted for numerous health-care, financial, and government organizations, including the U.S. Bureau of the Census and the Office of the President. His professional biography is profiled in Who's Who in America and Who's Who in the World.
Ralph has published more than twenty books and one hundred articles on such subjects as conflict management, organizational design, problem management, change management, and quantum organizations. He is the developer of the MAPS Design® Technology and coauthor of several diagnostic instruments, including the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument and theKilmann-Saxton Culture-Gap® Survey.
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