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Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode (TKI): What's Good About Avoiding?


When people read the results of the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI), they can jump to the conclusion that avoiding is a poor style. In fact, each of the 5 styles works well in some situations and poorly in others. Avoiding is useful in some situations.

For example, it helps to reduce stress. Some situations cannot be resolved immediately or ever. Dealing with them too soon can cause tensions to rise and anger to develop. Avoiding can save time. Again, the time might not be right to deal with an issue. In other cases, the issue simply isn't important enough to deal with. Avoiding lets us skip those times when little can be gained.

Another great use of avoiding is to control anger. If you notice your anger level rising, you can avoid dealing with an issue immediately. By waiting until you've had a chance to cool down and rethink the issue, you're more likely to come up with a useful solution. You can also reframe or reconsider what the other person said to you. Rather than assuming he or she was out to hurt you, take some time to reflect back on what happened. The motive you assume to be there might be missing.

Postponing an issue will allow you to gather more information, take a break from the stress, change perspective, refocus, and give you time to come up with new options or to deal with a more important matter first. One technique to make sure the issue isn't simply ignored is to set a date when the issue will be handled. Simply saying, "Not now" won't work. It might be 10 minutes from now or next week, but set a time and stick to it. Give a reason why now is a poor time.

Knowing which issues are most important is key to using the avoiding style effectively. For example, a meeting without clear goals or an agenda could be a waste of time. Skipping that meeting might be the best idea. However, if an issue that's not on the agenda keeps coming up, it's a sure sign it needs to be addressed. Another sign that an issue needs attention is when people are careful NOT to mention something. Usually, that indicates the issue really is important and avoiding no longer works.


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