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I was in a situation where I had to chose between telling someone how I really felt or accepting the status quo and biting my tongue. I chose the latter but continue to question the wisdom of my decision.

It was several months ago. This someone circulated a message I found offensive. I vocalized my objection to him and his response was that I “read it wrong.” It offended me further but I simply bit my tongue. We shared a common goal and I was convinced that it was best not to make too big a deal about it. Why give the party we were united against any fodder to fuel their own goals?

Recently, this someone circulated another message I found offensive. However, this time I am staying out of the situation all together. I began a response voicing my strong objections to his message but just deleted it. There didn’t seem to be any point. I would just be told I “read it wrong” again.

Why engage him? We still share a common goal and he has the time and passion to pursue it where I do not. Also, wouldn’t my objections just fuel the arguments of those we were united against?

Biting my tongue again is the lesser of two evils. However, this time I have decided to withdraw even more from the “cause.” Just like with the first message, no one else seems to have found what was expressed offensive. In fact, the response from others who received the message is the opposite. They praise him for passing judgment.

I am disappointed by the situation but understand that I am the odd one out.

Friends and coworkers will tell you I am for the most part non-confrontational. It is not so much that conflict makes me uncomfortable but it is a lack of stamina on my part that keeps me from pursuing an argument even when I am “sure” I am right. At some point during the debate or argument, I get tired and lose sight of any gains I might attain from pursuing my point. Somewhere during the process of arguing, the issue being debated seems to lose its luster.

The Foundation Coalition is an engineering education organization funded by the National Science Foundation. Among its key components is effective student teams. To nurture this, it published a brochure on Understanding Conflict and Conflict Management.

The brochure identifies two modes of response people have when faced with conflict: (1) Fight, the desire to address the conflict head-on or (2) Flee, the desire to escape the conflict.

The brochure identifies five modes people employ to manage the conflict:

  1. Competing
  2. Avoiding
  3. Accommodating
  4. Compromising
  5. Collaborating

Each mode is characterized by two scales: (1) assertiveness and (2) cooperation.

I took the Conflict Management Quiz provided on Reg Adkins’ blog, Elemental Truths. I rated as a “Collaborator.” However, I think those who know me would argue that my mode for managing conflict probably falls somewhere between Avoiding and Accommodating (or “Harmonizing” as it is referred to on Elemental Truths). I can easily withdraw myself from an conflict and yield my position as I have demonstrated in my present situation. I see no opportunity to “collaborate.”

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