Introducing the Dual Concern Model

The dual concern model is one way, out of many that exist, to analyze conflict. The dual concern model allows a person to gauge their own behaviors and those of their counterparts on the other side of the conflict. It is simple tool: I have not seen it applied to any conflict with more than two sides. I suppose that is adequate for most people as multi-party conflict is rare among individuals. People like to choose sides; it makes things easier.

The dual concern model describes 5 conflict behaviors: avoid, contend, yield, problem solve, and compromise. Avoiding means just want it says, complete avoidance of any and all conflict, regardless of consequence. Contend means you are willing to use aggression to deal with conflict. Yield means giving in because you cannot see any upside to involving yourself in conflict. Problem solve means to work with the other party to arrive at a mutually agreeable solution. In graduate school we were told that the technical definition of compromise is a mutually disagreeable solution.

The dual concern model is easily researched on the Internet. There are many different explanations: my favorite explanations are those that explain conflict behaviors by assigning a cutesy animal symbol to describe the behaviors; one of my favorite descriptions can be found here. If you decide to look you will notice that those descriptions do not precisely meet my own. To make it easy on you:

  • Avoid = Turtle
  • Contend = Shark
  • Yield = Teddy Bear
  • Problem Solve = Owl
  • Compromise = Fox

In praxis, many people like to pay attention to the Owl, or problem solving behaviors, in resolving conflict. This makes sense as a mutually agreeable, win-win, solution makes sense. Always go for the win-win sounds good. If you find a mutually agreeable solution to a conflict, you and the other party can walk away feeling good, confident in the knowledge that you reached the best possible agreement for all involved parties.

At this point I would like to quote something I wrote while in graduate school:

Problem solving describes a situation where both sides are placing a high level of importance on the outcome. Both sides want it to go their way. If both sides are calm and rational, then there is a good chance that they can discuss the issues and create a solution that fully satisfies each side. I would guess that more often than not emotion and pride quickly move participants beyond calmness and rationality.

Problem solving works well when both parties are calm and rational. When either party is agitated or illogical a disagreement can quickly move beyond calmness and rationality and into heated conflict.

Finally, I want to reference what I wrote in my last post, “There are, at least, two purposes to conflict resolution. The first is to avoid turning disagreement into conflict where and when possible. Second, to attempt to resolve conflicts with a minimum of damage to all parties involved.” The dual concern model can be used meet these two purposes I ascribe to conflict resolution. Next Monday my post will focus on the use of the dual concern model as a tool for strategy.


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