Do You Know What Your Preferred Conflict Management Style Is?

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Article updated for OurFamilyWizard by Jennifer Warren Medwin, MS, CDC. Originally published on Thrive Global.

Conflict is bound to take place and can be frustrating and uncomfortable. During the divorce process, there are many issues, including co-parenting arrangements, that can cause disputes. Overcoming these disputes requires you recognize that you and your co-parent both have specific wants, needs, ideas, and opinions. Sometimes they will complement each other. But at the times when they do not, tensions can develop. 

Controversy naturally arises from arguments about values, motivations, desires, feelings, or ideas.  How one manages opposition has a direct impact on the resolution, which makes it essential to comprehend various conflict resolution styles.

Disagreements stem from a person’s perceptions of a situation, not necessarily on an objective view of the facts. That makes emotional awareness even more critical when trying to understand yourself and how you deal with challenging circumstances like the dissolution of marriage and co-parenting. If you are uncomfortable with your emotions or unable to manage them in times of stress, that can inhibit your ability to resolve disputes successfully.

Many individuals going through divorce ignore or try to deflect strong emotions, leading to irreparable rifts, resentments, disappointments, and discomfort. The ability to handle differences of opinion depends on being connected to your feelings and being conscious of your moment-to-moment emotional experiences, word usage, body language, and tone of voice. Becoming more mindful of the styles of conflict management and how to instinctively respond to controversy can lead to more effective and efficient solutions.

The 5 Conflict Management Styles

According to Thomas-Kilman’s Conflict Mode Instrument*, which provides insight into typical responses to disagreements, there are five major styles of conflict management you should know. The various modes reflect differing levels of assertiveness and cooperation, and all individuals are capable of using the five conflict-handling modes depending on their personal nature and the requirements of a particular situation.


Individuals with this conflict management style are unassertive and cooperative. They tend to set aside their wants and needs and focus on those of others. They are interested in preserving the peace and maintaining the most harmonious circumstances possible at the expense of their goals and desires.


Individuals with this conflict management style are assertive and uncooperative. They tend to have a headstrong personality. They take a firm stance, are positioned based, and unmoved by the perspectives of others. Additionally, they are usually aggressive with an action-driven approach to tension.


Individuals with this conflict style are unassertive and uncooperative. They avoid conflict altogether. They tend to be unassertive, and they often diplomatically sidestep issues or withdraw from them either temporarily or completely.


Individuals with this conflict management style are moderate in both assertiveness and cooperativeness. They attempt to find a solution that will partially please all parties. It is an agree-to-disagree approach. They can walk away from challenging situations with only some of their wants, needs, ideas, and opinions satisfied.


Individuals with this conflict management style are assertive and cooperative. They attempt to work with the other parties to identify a solution that satisfies everyone’s overall concerns. It is a win-win approach. This style tends to minimize negative feelings.

How to Effectively Manage Conflict

People, particularly couples who are getting divorced and have children, have their own unique approaches to challenging situations. Identifying and being aware of which conflict management style best suits your needs is crucial. Individuals always have a choice as to how they want to approach differences of opinion. The most successful conflict management style reinforces listening to what is said, focuses on the present, makes resolution (rather than winning) a priority, picks battles carefully, has a willingness to forgive, and knows when to let go. 

Effectively dealing with disagreements requires managing stress while remaining alert and calm so that verbal and nonverbal communication can be accurately read and interpreted. It also requires learning to control your emotions and behavior so that you can communicate your needs without the use of intimidation, threats, or punishment. Understanding your preferred way of responding to disputes together with emotional awareness increases the ability to react in constructive ways.

Conflict is a natural part of our interactions with others because no two individuals have the same expectations and desires. Disputes, especially during the divorce process, are not always detrimental and can be an opportunity for growth and improvement. Individuals will inevitably disagree, and when this confrontation occurs, it needs to be handled as it arises in the most effective manner possible. When disputes are mismanaged, they can cause a negative ripple effect. 

The key is not to shy away from differences of opinion but to learn how to resolve them. When individuals practice recognizing their preferred conflict management style combined with an increased ability to manage their feelings appropriately, they can learn to examine others involved in the dispute with compassion and understanding. This process can lead to creative problem solving, respect, and consideration that is advantageous for all parties involved, especially the children.


Jen Warren Medwin MS, CDC | Supreme Court of Florida Family Mediator and Certified Marital Mediator

Author's Bio

Jennifer Warren Medwin is a CDC Certified Divorce Coach. Her private practice in Pinecrest, Miami is called Seeking Empowerment: Clarity through Partnership. Jennifer specializes in working alongside individuals who are contemplating divorce and are fearful of high conflict. She partners with clients to develop the clarity, confidence, courage, and communication skills they need in order to move through the process. Jennifer is also a Supreme Court of Florida Family Mediator. She uses her knowledge of mediation and coaching to help her clients emotionally prepare for the dissolution of their marriages in the most organized, time efficient, and productive manner. Additionally, Jennifer is a member of the National Association of Divorce Professionals (NADP). Her approach to divorce coaching and mediation is one that provides clients with guidance and compassion through a difficult time in their lives.

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Cover of Jennifer Warren Medwin's book, Strategies and Tips from a Divorce Coach: Roadmap to Move Forward.

Strategies and Tips from a Divorce Coach: A Roadmap to Move Forward

Whether you're considering divorce, ready to start the process, or simply do not know where else to turn, Strategies and Tips from a Divorce Coach: A Roadmap to Move Forward will help you take back your power and move forward confidently while saving time, money, and emotional fatigue. Learn more and get Jennifer's book here.