A combination of being assertive and cooperative, those who collaborate attempt to work with others to identify a solution that fully satisfies everyone’s concerns. In this style, which is the opposite of avoiding, both sides can get what they want and negative feelings are minimized. Collaborating works best when the long-term relationship and outcome are important, for example, planning for integrating two departments into one, where you want the best of both in the newly formed department. Below are the pros, cons, feedback and how to use it successfully!

Benefits of Collaborating

  • High-Quality Decisions: Leads to seeking inventive solutions that are better than each person’s initial positions. 
  • Learning and Communication: Aids communication and discovery through open exchange of information. 
  • Resolution and Commitment: Leads to both people working toward meeting all concerns, translating into both parties being committed to the decision. 
  • Strengthening Relationships: Builds trust and respect by resolving problems in a relationship (Thomas 13). 

Costs of Collaborating

  • Time and Energy Required: Requires full concentration and creativity. It also requires more time for digging through issues than the other modes.
  • Psychological Demands: Can be psychologically demanding as both parties have to be open to new viewpoints, ideas, and challenges. 
  • Possibility of Offending: This mode may require working through some sensitive issues. You risk worsening the situation and potentially hurting others feelings if unsuccessful. 
  • Vulnerability Risk: It is possible that others may try to exploit your flexibility and openness (Thomas 14). 

Related Feedback and Tips for When and How to Use The TKI Collaborating Mode – In his assessment of the Collaborating conflict handling mode Thomas states that Collaborating solutions are often highly desirable but are only realistically feasible when a situation meets very specific criteria. More than any other mode it requires ample time, participants to have strong interpersonal skills and trust for each other while being open to new ideas and the issue itself needs to have integrative possibilities. If one or more of these factors is missing, then collaboration is not likely to be a likely pathway for one to take effectively (Thomas 22-23). It is advisable to reserve collaboration for only important issues. In many cases an issue may be considered significant, but that does not necessarily make it important. In cases such as this, using the Compromising mode is likely to produce an outcome that would be considered good enough without requiring the extensive time and resource commitment associated with collaboration. The question then becomes, when is collaboration truly the best option? The added benefits of a win-win outcome are more valuable in some scenarios than others. One such scenario is when you want to learn, as collaborative discussions tend to be the most straightforward means of learning from other people. In this mode you are able to test your assumptions without the worry of your energy getting into defending your existing views as we find in competitive arguments. Thomas also emphasizes that this mode is also useful when dealing with complex issues that require for you to merge insight from people with diverse perspectives. These individuals may be more challenging to manage because of the potential introduction of conflicting insight, but it also provides a way of garnering a more complete understanding of the situation at hand from the diversity of specialized perspectives. The collaborative mode can also be a proper choice when working through problems in a relationship; business or personal. In any long term relationship unresolved issues can stack up as frustrations build up from past accommodations and compromises. In situations such as this, collaborating can serve as a way to bring such issues to the surface so that the core problems in a relationship can be resolved (Thomas 23). 

What Does Successful Collaborating Entail: Engaging Others – When collaborating it is beneficial to focus on developing specific behavioral skills in order to maximize the positive outcome of this highly demanding TKI conflict handling mode. A great place to start is working on setting the right tone when raising up conflict issues and doing it in such a way that doesn’t come off as being competitive or creating defensiveness. Before even beginning an attempt at a collaborative solution you should ask the other person if it is a good time to do it. You may be eager to raise the issue, but you will need to respect the other person’s schedule if you are to hope for cooperation. Thomas recommends utilizing “we” language to help create a collaborative environment once timing is figured out as it helps avoid putting blame on the other person. It puts the focus on solving a joint problem that can be solved together. One of the ways to put yourself in a mode to use “we” language is to picture the other person’s positive concerns. It also helps to focus on spelling out the positive outcomes that you can both achieve by solving the current problem while really emphasizing the specific concerns you think the other person has (Thomas 24). The second, and most important step in collaborating is identifying other individual’s underlying concerns. In order to do this successfully it is important to learn how to effectively focus on each person’s concerns as opposed to their positions. The concerns in a conflict are what each person cares about and is inherently threatened by the conflict. Positions are the actions you propose to settle the specific conflict. If you jump to positions prematurely it can lead to a win-lose scenario based on disagreements over different positions where only one individual can win. By clarifying and sharing your underlying concern and then helping to clarify the other person’s underlying concerns it can lead to a much better mutual understanding of each other’s situations. This, in turn, is much more likely to lead to a collaborative resolution (Thomas 25). Progressing to a position where both parties see the conflict as a mutual problem you can focus on brainstorming solutions that would satisfy both of your concerns. This does require that both parties remain flexible during the process while knowing when to be firm about the most important concerns you both have. Once you have identified numerous solutions that could work for both parties it should be much easier to finally agree on the best solution for the issue at hand. Once all of these aspects are addressed it will be much easier to brainstorm proper solutions and then move to picking the one that will result in the best overall outcome for both parties (Thomas 26).