What I learnt this week: I am not negotiating the way you think I am #WILTW

This is the 60th #WILTW

This week I participated in a day’s workshop on “Working effectively with others”. Hosted by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health it was an eye-opening day facilitated by Liz Saunders (of Alternative Guide to the NHS fame)

The day was themed on negotiation and conflict and involved some challenging discussions with a group of actors. We were given the chance to complete the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (Figure below via Ben Ziegler). I must confess previously I had not been the greatest fan of these type of personality assessments. My general feeling is, while fun to fill in, they tend to tell you what you already know and don’t meaningfully affect change (for you or others).


In a nutshell the instrument matches your level of assertiveness with tendency to be cooperative. It’s pretty simple and has that face validity that makes you jealous of Thomas and Kilmann for coming up with the idea first!


Competing is ensuring the outcome is focused on the best needs of you rather than anyone else

Avoiding is simply not engaging by postponing or withdrawing from the issue (slightly different from Accommodating which is ensuring the needs of others are met before your own)

Comprimising involves always seeking a middle-ground which is different from Collaborating which is an active mind-set to find a solution which will meet both parties needs.

I had an inkling that I might be in the middle or towards the lower half of the graph and I was right (the numbers a score out of 12 demonstrating which domains you generally acting out of).

My Conflict Style

What surprised me was a few colleagues mentioning they thought I was at the higher end of the assertiveness line. This gave me food for thought. It might be the feedback sample was unrepresentative, others having a similar opinion as the instrument. It also might be that conflict-handling style is not something that you can judge in someone else…?

The dissonance is relevant though. Regardless of the how you might use the chart to improve your own negotiating skills could you leave a room thinking you had been accommodating when others left frustrated at how competitive you are? I am sure there is a lot of literature on this and it is an area in which I am keen to improve my knowledge and skills. One thing I definitely can do is seek feedback following difficult team discussions (I am thinking one-to-one encounters might not be a good place to start!). Even thought this might be an uncomfortable process it will ultimately be important in improving the productivity of meetings.

What have you learnt this week? (and what do you think the style you act out of most is?) #WILTW

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