The Dual Concern Model as a Tool

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

Sun Tzu   The Art of War

The dual concern model is more than a tool for analysis. It can also be used as a guide for action. As a tool of analysis one can use the model to scrutinize their own behavior and the behavior of the other party. As a guide for action the model can be used to determine the best course of action. The key to this is understanding the model and the behaviors it describes.

Dual Concern ModelIf you look at this graphic representation of the model you can imagine that the y-axis (up and down) represents the other party’s interest in the conflict. The closer to the bottom left corner the other party’s interest lie, the less interest they have in the conflict. The higher they go up the axis, the more interest they have in resolving the conflict.

The x-axis represents your own interest in resolving the conflict. This works just like on the y-axis, the difference being that your interest lowers as you move to the left of the axis and increases as you move right. The farther right you go on the x-axis the more interest you take in resolving the conflict.

Viewing the model in this manner, we can make some assumptions. The bottom left corner represents a conflict that neither party is interested in. This is the area of avoidance. No one cares, so the issues get dropped.

The top right corner represents a conflict that both parties are very serious about. Calm and rational parties can work together to forge a win-win resolution. If either party moves beyond calmness and rationality, things might not go smoothly.

The top left and bottom right regions, where yield and contend reside, are two sides of the same coin. Yielding and contention come into play when one of the parties has more interest in the outcome than the other party. If you are more interested in the outcome, you contend and the other party yields. If you are less interested in the outcome, you yield and let the other party have what they want.

Compromise is an interesting place. Compromise takes place in the middle of the graph where both parties are interested, but not that interested. Compromise is way of saying I am not giving you everything you want, but this is what I can live with.

Knowing where your interests lie is key in correctly using this model to analyze your behavior. If you are not sure where you are going, if you do not have any concrete goals, then involving yourself in any conflict is foolhardy. Additionally, having an idea of where your interests lie is crucial to understanding your tendencies in the face of conflict.

Now, if you remember my last post, you know that I referenced the explanations of the dual concern model that used cute, animal icons to represent particular conflict behaviors. These animal representations are very useful for describing behavioral tendencies in the face of conflict. In my next post I will explore tendencies, those cute animals, and how each affects your analysis and actions in conflict.


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