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What’s your Style of Conflict?

Conflict is necessary when writing a story. Tension is the conflict’s little brother. While conflict might be more visible through a friend’s fight, a lover’s betrayal, or a tragic accident, it will keep the reader on edge from one scene to the next as they wonder how it will all come to an end.

If omitted, readers may decide to skip your novel entirely.

The principle of conflict is that it should rise and fall at uneven intervals. Escalation and resolution should occur so that conflict has motion. As a writer, you will want your characters to respond. For example, a woman leaving her husband can not happen without reason. Here, you begin to see how certain factors in story-building affect one another. 

We have to consider the degree of conflict and how that will impact your characters. 

Eventually, as writers, we try to make peace with the characters involved in the conflict. We try to think about their personality traits, their motivations, or their goals. We try to be in our characters’ shoes by considering what they will do. How would my characters respond, or does the conflict change them? The transition could be a bumpy one. 

Similarly, when we conflict with others, we ought to learn to make a truce.

The above applies to our lives. 

A conflict in our day-to-day lives helps us stay alert and, in some cases, grateful. If nothing ever went wrong in our lives, we would never have a chance to grow stronger. On the other hand, life, all rosy, would be so dull, aimless, and bland. A rise and fall at uneven intervals can keep us on guard and allow our intellect to make decisions when we are in a puddle. It’s also a test of our intelligence, which makes us different from any other living species. 

Conflict is the vehicle for change in our society, our personal lives, and at work.

Martin Luther King, Jr., looked at conflict as a means of making positive social change. It is how we handle conflict that we need to consider.

According to the Thomas-Kilmann, Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI), used by human resource (HR) professionals worldwide, there are five major styles of conflict management—collaborating, compromising, avoiding, competing, and accommodating.


While working in collaboration with another peer at work, an individual could create concerns and needs. Although partnership could generate creative solutions, foster respect, trust, and build relationships. But it can also lead to competition to create a win-win solution. 

Collaboration is far more powerful than competition. Your body and brain work best when you’re joyful and peaceful, not when you are pushed to the wall.


People who work as compromisers are willing to sacrifice some of their goals while persuading others to give up theirs. They are ready to walk the extra mile to help maintain the relationship. Although the compromise is not necessarily intended to make all parties happy, to split the difference, game-playing can result in an outcome that is less creative and ideal.


People who use this conflict style deliberately ignore or withdraw from it rather than face it when in such a situation. However, they hope the problem will go away if they lay low by not taking responsibility or being involved. But then avoidance can be destructive if the opposite party perceives that you don’t care enough to engage. The result could be a loss for both parties since the argument could result in angry or hostile outbursts by not dealing with the conflict. 


People who compete come across as aggressive, confrontational, and can be intimidating. Having a competitive style is mainly to gain power while pressuring a change. However, this style could help in making difficult decisions and can harm relationships beyond repair. 


People who adopt this style of conflict usually keep aside their own needs because they want to keep the peace. Accommodators are cooperative and keep their egos at bay. They wouldn’t mind losing and allowing the other person to win.


How we respond to someone challenging our ideas or questioning our views is an essential aspect of our personality that we would be wise to recognize. At work or within the family, how we engage with others can make the difference between a positive and mutually beneficial relationship or one that is fraught with distrust and frustration.

We might consider this mode as our instinctive reaction to conflict. Knowing our mode can help assess whether we are the right person to engage in a row.

My two cents

By first gaining self-awareness, engagement with others can be more thoughtful and considerate, which is critical in improving one’s work situation and achieving professional objectives. 

Different situations demand different conflict approaches as long as we continue to heal ourselves with any process. 

So, what’s your style of conflict?


This post comes from Rough Writer Ruchira Khanna

A Biochemist turned writer who gathers inspiration from the society where I write about issues that stalk the mind of the man via tales of fiction.

I blog at Abracabadra which has been featured as “Top Blog” for five years. Many of my write-ups have been published on LifeHack, HubPages to name a few.

I can be found at:

Twitter: @abracabadra01

Instagram: ruchira.khanna


  1. denmaniacs4 says:

    food for thought…I’m always conflicted about that…

  2. petespringerauthor says:

    Even though I avoid conflict and drama in my life, it is one of the things that draws us to stories. The conflict I often mind most interesting is inner conflict when a character is wrestling with a hard choice or one that might be more profitable but goes against their principles and values.

    • Pete, I totally agree! The subconscious is a worthy opponent. As an editor, sorry, have to point out “mind” is “find”. 💙

    • I agree with you, Pete.
      I’m of the same kind. I like to write about issues that stalk the mind of the man via tales of fiction. I project the mental growth of my characters; thus, making my readers tag my work as “Books that make you ponder!”

      Thank you for stopping by!

  3. Great post, Ruchira. The concrete terms for different conflict response styles helps the writer nail down character traits.

    Whether considering our characters’ reactions while we write, to conjure conflict with the impact we’re looking for, or to ensure our characters’ reactions are consistent with their mindset in certain parts, these concepts are a great resource every step of the way.

    The benefit to our personal relationships is a powerful one also. Such as getting angry and passionate about a conflict being a positive thing in certain situations and not others. Rather than being passive and perceived as uncaring, showing our frustrations can strengthen our connection with each other. Whereas being able to collaborate, to empathise and debate with a calm demeanour, can strengthen how we present ourselves as trustworthy and disciplined.

    Different conflict responses are needed for different situations. Humans are fickle and complex, but mostly fascinating to study.

    • So glad you pointed out conflicts can surprisingly be positive and beneficial to any type of relationship. “Clearing the air” can produce strengthening results!

    • I agree with you, Rebecca.
      We humans are such interesting souls, that even if the stories of our life is the same…birth, growth, decay!
      How a human tackles each step is what makes it unique.

      Thank you for stopping by!

  4. Norah says:

    Great post, Ruchira. I think understanding how we ourselves, and others, respond to conflict helps us create better tension in our writing. You’ve outlined different responses clearly. Thank you.

  5. Great post. Yep, conflict is real and it is not necessarily a bad thing even in real life. I was reminded of a book I enjoyed recently called Think Again. Awareness in conflict can help us change the thinking of others and ourselves and can result in positive and creative outcomes.

  6. Myrna Migala says:

    The worse conflict is when we continue to live with the conflict within our own conscience. Deliberately within while peace of soul denied.

  7. Hi Ruchira, this is a very interesting article. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Charli Mills says:

    What a great tutorial on conflict and ways to create it in fiction. Conflict drives the characters and builds the plot’s action. The author has much control over their characters and how much conflict they need.

    I hope you are having safe travels!

  9. In writing I love conflict I use it to move the story add humor, develop the characters, and take up space when I have a block. Conflict is king. In life Not-So-Much
    Laugh everyday, It’s as necessary as food

  10. My submission: Revised excerpt from ” Living in a Shadow” by Deborah A. Bowman

    “I don’t think we should wait to get married…the baby,” Rich stated.

    “It isn’t a concern,” Marcy interrupted.

    “Of course it is,” he argued. “My new job, everything is set.”

    She turned her back to him, masking her tears. “I love you, Rich. It was a tough decision.”

    “Couldn’t you wait to talk about it?” he screamed!

    Rich flung Marcy around. The look on her face stopped him cold.

    She was shattered–a crystal goblet in his hands, sharp shards slipping through his fingers and heart.

    “Okay. I love you, Marcy.”

    He loved her, but it wasn’t “okay”.

  11. Jules says:

    Dear Ruchira,

    When we are young we have the constant conflict of trying to please our parents, our peers and society at large. If we haven’t been given a good base to create positive resolutions we can spiral into negative dark space.

    Even years after becoming adults the memories of lesser successes with conflict can be like ghosts that haunt us in the night. Learning how to resolve conflicts within ourselves and with others is valuable to success in all things.

    For example in engineering and some sciences conflict isn’t emotional. The facts that something isn’t working isn’t a judgement call on the person who created the thing or program. If you don’t use the correct materials a buildings foundation might collapse at the first high gust of wind. If you can see in the plans that the mix isn’t right – then fix it. Or if you think your idea is correct – prove it. That is where leadership, cooperation and resolution can have positive outcomes. But not listening or putting emotion where it doesn’t belong can be devastating.

    We’ve had the tail end of Ida come through our area (yesterday – Wednesday September 1st). A hurricane and even the edges of it created conflict and tension. We were lucky to only have some minor flooding. We’ll have some clean up. But we can’t put or peg an emotion onto nature. We cannot blame nature. What we can do is see how we can help others who might still have a loss of power, need help with clean up or other support. How we can aid those organizations who are providing shelter, food and medicine?

    I like how you summed up your ‘Two Cents’ …”By first gaining self-awareness, engagement with others can be more thoughtful and considerate, which is critical in improving one’s work situation and achieving professional objectives.

    Different situations demand different conflict approaches as long as we continue to heal ourselves with any process. “

    • I agree Jules.

      While I pray you and your neighbors have cleaned up the remnants of hurricane Ida. Conflict from Nature can’t be avoided, but our reaction to it, can be.

      Thank you for stopping by!

  12. Thank you, this was an interesting column. As a compromiser who interacts too frequently with a bunch of competers in his day-to-day life, it helped make some things clear to me. Most interesting to me though was how much of my writing is also from the perspective of a compromiser. It might be interesting to experiment writing stories from the other four styles of conflict management and see what happens. I’m thinking it would be difficult.

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