As a child, I never saw my parents argue. One of my friends did. His parents I mean. Constantly. Looking back we both missed out. He never knew peace and I didn't have a clue how to navigate disagreements or conflict.

My own children saw (see) my wife and I argue from time to time. But they also saw what happened next: the de-escalation, the quiet after the energy's spent, the discussion, the apology, the resolution and the moving on.

So far they seem to do the same, with partners who also get how conflict works.

I guess our responses to workplace conflict are partly shaped by what we saw as children and by how we deal with things now, outside work. If you're in a battle or a skirmish or even a war with someone at work, consider not only the issue itself but also how you both deal with issues generally.

The Thomas-Kilmann Instrument (TKI) describes a person's behaviour in conflict situations. It reveals a unique profile across five different modes: competing, collaborating, compromising, avoiding and accommodating. These modes are different mixes of assertiveness and cooperativeness.

For example assertive, uncooperative folks compete; unassertive, cooperative ones try to accommodate. The unassertive, uncooperative person avoids the issue whereas the collaborator is assertive AND cooperative. Compromising happens when there's moderate assertiveness and cooperativeness.

So, as well as being in conflict about an issue, you may also have conflicting conflict styles! A competer is programmed to engage, to challenge, to defend. There'll be fireworks if the other party does the same. An avoider doesn't deal with the issue and won't engage. Someone who accommodates neglects their own needs while collaborators and compromisers aim for a win-win outcome.

Maybe the issue isn't actually the issue. Maybe the issue is simply the different ways in which two people approach it...