Understanding Conflict styles – The Collaborating 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.

Every conflict we face in life is rich with positive and negative potential. It can be a source of inspiration, enlightenment, learning, transformation, and growth–or rage, fear, shame, entrapment, and resistance. The choice is not up to our opponents, but to us, and our willingness to face and work through them. – Kenneth Cloke and Joan Goldsmith

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



Collaborating is characterized as a high assertiveness high cooperativeness mode.  When a person chooses this approach to manage conflict they seek to fully satisfy both sides of an issue. People who relate to the True Colors Gold/Blue combination may also relate to this mode


While some may wonder if this approach can help both parties ‘win’, there are certain situations in which its use is completely appropriate.  For example:

  • where both sides of an issue are important or interdependent and an integrative solution is needed
  • when you want to learn, test your assumptions, or understand another position
  • when you wantto find an innovative solution to a complex problem

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

  • considering opposing viewpoints and understanding all sides of an issue
  • getting all the issues out on the table without intimidating others or causing them to become defensive.
  • looking at information objectively and drawing accurate conclusions
  • getting to the root cause of a problem

Overusing the Collaborating Mode

When faced with difficult situations the Collaborating mode  may be the ‘go to’ response for some people.  But, if overused,  it can

  • consume a lot of time and energy – time wasted on trivial matters
  • be used as a way of avoiding taking ownership – collaboration requires shared risk and responsibility
  • cause burnout – If you having difficulty saying “no” or enjoy championing causes

Underusing the Collaborating Mode

People who don’t trust others, who don’t feel like they have the time or  who struggle to communicate effectively may underuse the Collaborating mode. When underused, it may:

  • be used as a quick fix solution that ultimately does not address the root cause of an issue
  • cause others to withhold their support – because their input was not requested
  • cause people to refrain from sharing their ideas – because they feel that their contributions are not valued
  • stifle innovation – when people work together synergies can create great things

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!



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