Understanding Conflict Styles – The Avoiding 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.

There is little value in preparing a cookbook of recipes for conflict success. The effects of conflict interaction depend directly on what the participants do mentally with conflict behaviors—that is, how they process and interpret those behaviors. – William Cupach & Daniel Canary

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 fourth of five posts that aims to help increase your understanding of the following conflicting handling styles.

Competing Collaborating Compromising AvoidingAccommodating


Avoiding is characterized as a low assertiveness and low cooperativeness mode.  When a person chooses this approach to managing conflict, they are willing to forego satisfying their own concerns and the concerns of others. People who relate to the True Colors Green may also relate to this mode.


While some may think this approach is more like  ‘procrastination’  there are certain situations in which its use is completely appropriate.  For example when:

  • an issue is insignificant and it makes sense to stay out of it.
  • when their is no good outcome possible by engaging in conflict
  • when you need more information before taking action or making a decision
  • when you have limited power over the situation
  • your involvement could rob others of taking responsibility
  • when you realize your time would be better spent dealing with the root cause not the symptom

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

  • exercising good judgment and withdrawing from potentially damaging situations
  • using diplomacy and tact when trying to remove yourself from sensitive situations
  • throwing in the towel and postponing discussions for a later date
  • sitting on issues.  Allowing matters to go unresolved for the time being.

Overusing the Avoiding Mode

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

  • cause you to sacrifice long terms goals for a quick fix
  • cause others to lose their trust in you because it seems as though ‘everything is negotiable’ –  you are seen as being without values or principles
  • inadvertently create an ‘anything for a price’ environment

Underusing the Avoiding Mode

People who are uncomfortable bargaining, saying what they want or fear being taken advantage of, may underuse the Avoiding mode. When underused it may cause:

  • small issues to get blown out of proportion more readily
  • people to find you unreasonable or inflexible, which makes backing away gracefully from disagreement harder than it needs to be
  • negotiating to be difficult because you lack the skills necessary to get the best deal possible.

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 C0l0rs 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

Image credit:  www.ecardshack.com 

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