Understanding Conflict Styles – The Competing Mode

We’ve all been in situations where our goals and needs have come into conflict with someone else, and we’ve all felt the often-intense personal animosity that can result. However, the way we handle conflict with a colleague at work may be very different than with a friend or spouse.  Our response will be dictated by how important the issue is, and how much energy we put into it.

It is possible to conceive conflict as not necessarily a wasteful outbreak of incompatibilities, but a normal process by which socially valuable differences register themselves for the enrichment of all concerned. – Mary Parker Follett

Out of habit, most of us rely on one or two approaches to handling conflict because of the way we were raised, our job responsibilities, past experiences, or even cultural norms.  And, because we are more comfortable with some modes more than others, it is easy to overuse or underuse them and as a result create unintended consequences.

In order to expand our conflicting handling options, we need to improve our awareness, refine our existing conflict handling skills and even develop new ones.

This is the first of five posts that aims to increase your understanding of  the following conflicting handling styles.

CompetingCollaborating CompromisingAvoiding Accommodating


Competing is characterized as a high assertiveness/low cooperativeness mode, which means that a person using this approach to manage conflict will be less concerned with meeting the needs of the other person.  People who relate to True Colors, Orange/Green combination may also relate to this mode.


While some may interpret this approach as self- centered, there are certain times in which its use is completely appropriate, such as:

  • situations that require a quick decision with little time to debate the issues.
  • when difficult or unpopular decisions have to be made, and
  • on issues that are of critical importance, when you know for certain that your position is correct.

To be effective in your use of Competing in a conflict situation, you’ll have to hone your skills and become very comfortable

  •  being able to organize your thoughts and make a strong case for your position
  •  Knowing when and how to assert your power or influence
  • having tenacity and strength of purpose, especially when under attack
  • being clear with yourself and others about what your position is and why

Overusing the Competing Mode

For some of us the Competing mode is our ‘go to’ response when faced with difficult situations.  But, if overused,  it may cause others to:

  • withhold important feedback, because they have learned that it’s difficult to influence you or to share a different point of view
  • be less than honest about what they don’t know for fear of being judged
  • feel disempowered, because they cannot afford to take risks or make decisions without your approval
  • only tell you what they think you want to hear, or habitually accepting your position without challenge.

Underusing the Competing Mode

People who lack confidence, prefer to please others or who just don’t like the assertive approach may underuse the Competing mode. When underused it may:

  • cause you to appear to be ‘wishy washy’, because you are overly sensitive to others
  • prevent you from standing up for what you believe in, and affects your ability to influence others
  • cause you to be indecisive because you don’t wish to displease others.

Conflict Resolution

From a True Colors perspective, high functioning teams are made up of  Gold, Blue Green and Orange personality types.    To work successfully with these types, it is critical that team leaders and team members understand how to effectively manage conflict.  There are those who subscribe to the notion that the only way to deal with conflict is to prevent it, and others who believe that conflict is unavoidable and in fact can help people grow.  Regardless of philosophy successful teams will, at some point, be confronted with conflict within the group.

Conflicts are part of individual relationships and organizational development, and no relationship or organization can hope to mature to productivity and be successful without being able to resolve conflicts effectively” (Cottringer, 1997).

Learn more about our True Colors and Conflict Management Workshops here

Do you know what your True Colors are?  Find out now by taking our assessment here 

Gillian Andries, is a Life & Career Coach and a certified True Colors facilitator

Do you know someone who could benefit from understanding conflict handling styles?   Share this post with them!



Feature  image credit: www.huffingtonpost.com