5 Conflict Resolution Strategies for Independent Talent

June 22, 2022 Jamie Johnson
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Many people shy away from dealing with conflict in the workplace. But knowing how to confront and resolve disputes in the workplace is one of the most valuable skills you can have.

As an independent talent, conflict resolution skills are crucial. You’ll have to learn how to communicate effectively with your clients and may need to have difficult conversations over deliverables and other project details. You will also have to learn how to balance your workload with other team members and may need to address differing opinions about how to complete the project. And you’ll most likely have to set boundaries with your friends or family members around working from home.

If you struggle with managing conflict, the good news is that it’s a skill you can learn and get better at. It will take years of practice to implement fully, but you can start by working on some of the most effective conflict resolution strategies.

The 5 Conflict Management Styles

Before you dive right into trying to resolve conflict, it’s helpful to understand how you currently deal with conflict. The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI) is a valuable tool for understanding your conflict management style.

The TKI Conflict Model identifies five common strategies for dealing with conflict:

  • Competing: Individuals who compete focus on their own advancement at the expense of others. They like to argue, take a stand, and assert power over other people. Sometimes it’s necessary to be competitive, like when you’re trying to win a new client or contract. But this style can be harmful when working with other people since it focuses on winning over building relationships.
  • Accommodating: This conflict resolution strategy is the opposite of competing—accommodating people rarely assert themselves. This person neglects their own well-being for the good of others. Again, sometimes it’s necessary to be accommodating when you’re trying to preserve a relationship. But being overly accommodating can cause resentment.
  • Avoiding: People who avoid conflict are unassertive and uncooperative. This person tends to sidestep issues or avoid them altogether to avoid the discomfort of dealing with conflict. This strategy can be appropriate if you really don’t care about the outcome, but the downside is that nothing gets resolved if you don’t deal with the situation.
  • Collaborating: Collaborating means you assert yourself while still cooperating with the other person. This style aims to find a solution that works for everyone and to minimize any negative feelings. It’s an excellent strategy to use when the outcome matters, but you want to preserve the relationship as well.
  • Compromising: Compromising falls somewhere between competing and accommodating. This strategy is typically used when you’re running out of time and need to reach a solution. In a compromise, no one gets exactly what they want—the outcome is fair for everyone, but no one is really happy about it either.

Navigating Conflict Resolution in the Workplace

The exact steps you take to resolve conflict will vary based on the situation and the people involved. But here are five general steps to help you get started.

1. Recognize Your Primary Conflict Resolution Strategy

Most people are capable of using all five conflict resolution methods, but odds are, you have one or two go-to strategies. Maybe you always give in to other people’s demands, or you may tend to avoid conflict altogether.

It’s important to understand that there is no “right” conflict resolution strategy. But some people overuse or underuse specific methods depending on their personality, and this can lead to problems. Understanding how you naturally respond to a conflict will give you more awareness going forward.

2. Clarify What the Problem Is

If you’re having a problem with a client or a team member, start by clarifying the issue at hand. If there are multiple people involved, make sure everyone gets an opportunity to speak their mind.

What do they think would be an appropriate resolution to the problem? Asking questions will help you figure out how the other person perceives the situation. Just make sure you meet in a neutral environment and use active listening, so other people feel heard.

3. Come Up With Some Possible Solutions

Once everyone understands what the problem is, take some time to brainstorm different solutions. Offer different ideas as they come to you and give everyone in the group the chance to offer their feedback and suggestions.

During the brainstorming process, focus on working towards a common goal. This will help eliminate the mindset of “winning” or “losing” and help everyone work toward a mutually beneficial solution.

Once the group has come up with a list of possible ways to fix the situation, everyone should agree on the next steps and how to implement them. Ideally, the solution the group comes up with should benefit everyone involved.

4. Act Immediately

Once you’ve put in the time and come up with a solution to the problem, it’s important to take decisive action. You don’t want to rush the conflict resolution process, but it’s time to take action once a decision has been reached.

Waiting or lingering over the solution could cause you to lose face with the others in the group. Once a decision is reached, take action on it, so everyone knows where they stand.

5. Recognize When There’s Nothing You Can Do

And finally, you need to recognize when the situation is out of your hands. Perhaps your relationship with your client or team member is beyond repair, and you’ll never see eye-to-eye.

Perhaps you’ve done all that you’re capable of doing, but for whatever reason, you just can’t resolve the situation on your own. At that point, it may be helpful to bring in a neutral third party or turn the problem over to a manager or someone from HR.

The Bottom Line

Even minor conflicts can cause huge rifts between you and your clients or team members. Deal with these conflicts as they arise before your productivity or work starts to break down. Using the conflict resolution strategies outlined in this article will help you develop stronger, more beneficial working relationships all around.


Skilled professionals are becoming independent consultants to capitalize on their strengths, gain ownership over how they work, and select projects that interest and excite them. You can too! Become an independent consultant today.

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About the Author

Jamie Johnson

Jamie Johnson is a freelance writer who teaches others how to start their own freelance writing careers. She covers topics related to small business, entrepreneurship, and personal finance. She currently writes for clients like Business Insider, Bankrate, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Quicken Loans.

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