What is collaborative style of conflict management and how to use it?

A conflict management style is simply the way we choose to approach any given conflict. The Thomas–Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI) is a tool developed to measure an individual’s response to conflict situations. There are 5 conflict style modes. Compromising, Accommodating, Avoiding, Competing and Collaborating. The TKI uses two axes (influenced by the Mouton and Blake axes) called “assertiveness” and “cooperativeness.”. 

Let’s examine the Collaborative style/modes to better understand when and how to use collaborative conflict resolution. 

What is the collaborating conflict style?

Collaborating is both assertive and cooperative. When collaborating, an individual attempts to work with the other person to find a solution that fully satisfies the concerns of both. It involves digging into an issue to identify the underlying concerns of the two individuals and to find an alternative that meets both sets of concerns. Collaborating between two persons might take the form of exploring a disagreement to learn from each other’s insights, resolving some condition that would otherwise have them competing for resources, or confronting and trying to find a creative solution to an interpersonal problem

Collaborating is different to compromising.

Compromising is intermediate in both assertiveness and cooperativeness. When compromising, an individual has the objective of finding an expedient, mutually acceptable solution that partially satisfies both parties. Compromising falls on a middle ground between competing and accommodating, giving up more than competing but less than accommodating. Likewise, it addresses an issue more directly than avoiding but doesn’t explore it in as much depth as collaborating. Compromising might mean splitting the difference, exchanging concessions, or seeking a quick middle-ground position.

Example of the collaborating style in practice

The collaborating conflict management style or collaborative style of conflict management is often represented by one or both parties actively seeking an outcome that is mutually beneficial. A collaborating conflict style example would likely include a variety of broad open questions to understand what your counterpart needs to resolve the issue and you sharing what you need to reach a resolution. Together you would use that information to find a suitable solution to your conflict. The aim is to learn from the insights you gather and use those learning to navigate emotion and resolve the problem at hand. 

Advantages of Collaborating Conflict Management

  • High-Quality Decisions: Leads to seeking inventive solutions that are better than each person’s initial positions.
  • Learning and Communication: Aids communication and discovery through open exchange of information.
  • Resolution and Commitment: Leads to both people working toward meeting all concerns, translating into both parties being committed to the decision.
  • Strengthening Relationships: Builds trust and respect by resolving problems in a relationship. 

Disadvantages of Collaborating Conflict Management

  • Time and Energy Required: Requires full concentration and creativity. It also requires more time for digging through issues than the other modes.
  • Psychological Demands: Can be psychologically demanding as both parties have to be open to new viewpoints, ideas, and challenges.
  • Possibility of Offending: This mode may require working through some sensitive issues. You risk worsening the situation and potentially hurting other feelings if unsuccessful.
  • Vulnerability Risk: It is possible that others may try to exploit your flexibility and openness.

When to use the collaborating style

Collaboration in conflict management or the collaboration conflict style isn’t always a welcomed approach amid resolving conflict. Though it’s arguably applicable in across almost all conflict situations, the collaborative conflict management style is best used when you have time to unpack and understand each other’s points of view. 

When to avoid the collaborating style

It’s always the case that you want to avoid the collaboration conflict management style when our counterpart is highly competitive. A competitive counterpart might seek to use your vulnerability to their advantage. 

Practical Tips for Collaboration

    • Go slow to go fast. Everyone wants to get the outcome. Sometimes to get there we need to take out foot of the accelerator and slow things down. Taking time to understand before we act usually results in a higher quality outcome. 
    • Listen. Listen to understand not reply. It’s easy to hear what people are saying it’s a different thing entirely to understand what they mean. Taking tom to truly listen to your counterparts does wonders for your relationship. 
    • Think creatively. A large part of collaboration required you to engage in fluid creative thinking. The kind of thinking that has you suggesting out of the box and even wild ideas that usually spark great practical outcomes. 

Skills in Conflict Management

If you’re looking to develop skills in collaboration or conflict resolution CMA offer a variety of programs to suit everyone’s needs. 


1. Why is collaboration strategy important?

When in the process of conflict resolution, collaboration can assist us to move things forward. Having a collaboration strategy means we are committed to working with our counterpart and not against them. We’re shifting our mindset from an adversarial one to a collaborative one. 

2. What is the difference between compromising and collaborating?

Compromising means that each person gets partially satisfied—but not completely satisfied. You often work in a give and take process to end up with something ‘fair’ to both parties. With collaborating you’re coming up with a creative solution that uniquely satisfies everyone’s needs, we thus achieve complete satisfaction. 


Collaborating in conflict sounds unnatural.  However, it is most definitely a style or mode that can be used in a variety of scenarios. This approach is underpinned by actively seeking understanding and genuinely listening to our counterpart to find a creative solution. The reality of any conflict is that it requires management. We need to be equipped with a variety of styles including collaborating to navigate and resolve conflict. 

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