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Who Are You?

by Phyllis Pollack
May 2009

From the Blog of Phyllis G. Pollack.

Phyllis  Pollack

       “Who are you?” What an interesting question! Are you competitive? Accommodating? Avoiding? Collaborating? Or Compromising?  How you answer these questions reveal your approach to conflict. Each of these personalities approach and manage conflict very differently.

       For more than thirty years, the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict MODE Instrument (“TKI”) has been used to assess how individuals handle conflict which, in actuality, affects their negotiation skills, styles and the outcomes.  (See,

       According to this testing device – TKI – there are two types of people in the world in terms of behavior: assertive and cooperative. The assertive person “. . . attempts to satisfy  his  own concerns.”(Id.)  The cooperative person, though, “attempts to satisfy the other person’s concerns.” (Id.)

      Using these two behavior patterns, a person could fall into one of five patterns in terms of   how she handles conflict:

       The first is competitive. Here, a person is both assertive and uncooperative. She will “pursue [her] own concerns at the other person’s expense”. (Id.) This person is very “power-oriented”, using “…whatever power seems appropriate to win. . .” for the simple sake of winning. (Id.)

       The second is accommodating. This person is unassertive yet cooperative. She will neglect “. . . her own concerns to satisfy the concerns of the other person. . . .” (Id.) She self-sacrifices as might be evidenced by “selfless generosity, or charity . . . or yielding to another’s point of view.” (Id.)

       The next behavior pattern is the avoider.   She is both unassertive and uncooperative. She “neither pursues [her] own concerns nor those of the other individual.” (Id.) She simply does not deal with the conflict. Rather, she will sidestep the issue, or postpone it until “later” or simply withdraw altogether.

       The fourth behavior pattern is the collaborator (aka the mediator). She is both assertive and cooperative. She will “attempt to work with others to find some solution that fully satisfies their concerns.” She will look for “the underlying needs and wants. . .” of the persons involved. She will explore the disagreement, looking for insights “. . .or trying to find a creative solution to” . . . the problem. (  Id. ).  ( Sounds just  like a mediator, doesn’t it?)

       The final behavior pattern is the compromiser. She “is moderate in both assertiveness and cooperativeness.” ( Id.) Her “. . .objective  is to find some expedient, mutually acceptable solution that partially satisfies both parties.” (Id.) A compromiser will give up more ground than a competitor but not as much as an accommodator. The compromiser will also confront an issue, unlike the avoider, but will not deal with it in as much detail or depth as the collaborator.

       According to this testing device, each of us, at different times, may use one or all of these behavior patterns. We do not use the same behavior pattern or a single sole style of behavior   all of the time. Rather, we will mix them up, depending upon the situation.  However, one or more of these behavior patterns may feel more comfortable to us so that it becomes the one we use most often or the pattern of choice.

       In sum, people approach disputes differently and so, will negotiate their resolution differently. By understanding the behavior patterns of the negotiators (aka parties) to the dispute (both yours and theirs), you will have a much greater understanding of the dynamics of the conflict, of the parties involved (i.e., what is really going on) and how to resolve it.

       . . . Just something to think about!


Phyllis Pollack with PGP Mediation uses a facilitative, interest-based approach. Her preferred mediation style is facilitative in the belief that the best and most durable resolutions are those achieved by the parties themselves. The parties generally know the business issues and priorities, personalities and obstacles to a successful resolution as well as their own needs better than any mediator or arbitrator. She does not impose her views or make decisions for the parties. Rather, Phyllis assists the parties in creating options that meet the needs and desires of both sides.  When appropriate, visual aids are used in preparing discussions and illustrating possible solutions. On the other hand, she is not averse to being proactive and offering a generous dose of reality, particularly when the process may have stalled due to unrealistic expectations of attorney or client, a failure to focus on needs rather than demands, or when one or more parties need to be reminded of the potential consequences of their failure to reach an agreement.

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