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Using Avoidance to Deal With Conflict

Whether you realize it or not, you are probably employing one of five main strategies when dealing with conflict.

  1. Avoidance
  2. Accommodation
  3. Competition
  4. Compromise
  5. Collaboration

Let’s talk about the first strategy – avoidance – when conflict arises in a meeting or a small group setting.

Avoidance is a style that allows you or the person running the meeting to remain neutral and stay out of the conflict. Choosing this strategy is choosing non-involvement.

Avoidance can be a good response IF:

  •  The issue is trivial
  •  The person raising the issue lacks the communication skills necessary to prevent destructive escalation
  •  Potential losses from an open conflict outweigh the possible gains
  •  There’s insufficient time to work through the issue adequately

TIP: If any of these are true, you can point to the need to stick to the agenda, the time constraints of the meeting format and the need to respect everyone’s time among the reasons for needing to move on.

TRAP: If you do choose avoidance, know that it could be interpreted as a lack of leadership. The manner you adopt when you choose to use avoidance can influence this perception. If it smells like fear, look out. If it’s confident and focused, you can avoid the trap.


© Joe Caruso and Caruso Leadership, 2013. Reprints available with permission.


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