Discover 3 Types of Assertiveness and Cooperativeness in Conflict Management

How difficult can it be for you to express your thoughts, opinions, and feelings? Do you think that during a conflict, you can clearly state what’s on your mind, and express your emotions completely or do you keep them hidden inside, fearing that speaking out might complicate things further?

If I talk about compromise, how many of you give more priority to the concerns of others rather than yours? Do you believe that your willingness to make compromises has resolved conflicts and improved relationships?

If you are aware of the Thomas Kilmann Two-Dimensional Model of Conflict Resolution, then you must have noticed that Assertiveness and Cooperativeness have been used quite extensively in explaining the five conflict resolution styles Competing, Collaborating, Accommodating, Avoiding, and Compromising.

Today, we will try to delve deeper into the concepts of assertiveness and cooperativeness so that you can gain clarity on which conflict resolution style to use when dealing with any situation.


Assertiveness and Cooperativeness Conflict Management

Assertiveness means expressing your thoughts, opinions and views strongly in front of others and remaining firm on them. If you can firmly convey your ideas to someone, you are putting weight on your thoughts, which can make your argument stronger during a conflict.

Being assertive doesn’t necessarily mean putting pressure on others; it may also involve listening to others’ concerns, respecting their thoughts and opinions, and working together for a resolution of the conflict that suits all. assertiveness can be measured on a scale from low to high where the below scenarios can be encountered:

  1. High Assertiveness: When you are highly assertive, you express your opinions strongly and don’t hesitate to speak up about what’s on your mind. You can firmly express your feelings and emotions, and your concern for yourself is significant as compared to your concern for others. In such a situation, conflict resolution is possible only when all your concerns are addressed; otherwise, the conflict won’t be resolved at your end.
  2. Moderate Assertiveness: When you are moderately assertive, concern for others matters to you as much as concern for yourself. You give as much weight to others’ concerns as to your own, and sometimes you’re willing to compromise on your concerns for the sake of others. This is a case where you might tell the other person that you listen to me and I’ll listen to you, and then work out a compromise in between. In short, you do assert your views strongly, but you also allow others to express their views.
  3. Low Assertiveness: When a person is low on assertiveness, they hesitate to express their opinions to others, struggle to state them firmly, and often keep their thoughts hidden inside. Such individuals often find themselves having to compromise on their terms, and the things they wish to say often remain unsaid, leading to a sense of frustration and remorse. Sometimes, it can be a person’s inherent nature, while in other cases, it can be due to specific circumstances where they feel compelled to act less assertively to preserve relationships.

Here are a few examples of being assertive:

  • Work: Expressing your thoughts to your manager on getting a raise or a promotion next year.
  • Relationship: Expressing your feelings and setting up clear boundaries in a relationship.
  • Self-Respect: Standing up for your self-respect, supporting what is morally correct, and opposing what is wrong.
  • Feedback: Providing feedback on someone’s work without hesitation and holding up anything inside by setting out your expectations.
  • Leadership: Raising voice for the concerns of others and fighting for their rights.

Being highly assertive doesn’t mean being argumentative or forcefully imposing your views on others. You can also express yourself politely while standing up for your rights and supporting what you believe is correct.

Cooperativeness definition and example

Cooperativeness as the name suggests, means how much you are willing to cooperate with others to resolve their concerns. It reflects your concern for others and indicates the degree or the extent to which you are willing to listen and work towards addressing others’ concerns.

I’ve always said that being cooperative is the most significant factor in resolving any conflict. If you are low on cooperativeness or not cooperative, it becomes very challenging to resolve a conflict or achieve a long-term solution peacefully. Assertiveness and cooperativeness can also be measured on a scale from low to high where they can be broadly classified into three types:

  1. High Cooperativeness: Highly cooperative individuals indeed give due importance to others’ concerns and are willing to compromise on their needs to address them. For them, peacefully resolving conflicts matters more as they prioritize relationships over their concerns. They tend to be people-oriented and make decisions that are in the best interest of others.
  2. Moderate Cooperativeness: Such individuals are indeed cooperative, but only to a limited extent. They compromise on certain things but not always. Often, being moderately cooperative is more advantageous because it prevents others from taking undue advantage, and you only cooperate with them where it’s appropriate. This simply means that you’ll cooperate with others, but they should also be willing to cooperate with you to some extent when necessary.
  3. Low Cooperativeness: Low cooperativeness means when someone is not cooperative at all or has very minimal respect for others’ concerns. They prioritize their concern for themselves to such an extent that they either don’t think about others or, if they do, it’s usually for their benefit. Such behavior often doesn’t work well in many situations, and there are high chances of damaging relationships. People often behave in such a way when the relations don’t matter much to them.

Below are a few examples where cooperative behavior is usually seen during a conflict:

  • Compromise: Situations where you compromise on your desires to fulfill the needs of others. it is characterized by intermediate assertiveness and cooperativeness.
  • Common Ground: Circumstances where you are willing to work with others to find a common ground for the problem.
  • Concern for Others: Cases where concern for others is more important for resolution of the conflict.
  • Fast-Paced Resolution: In situations where you need to resolve the problem as quickly as possible, you need to be more cooperative.
  • Collaborating: In situations where the concerns of others are just as important as your concerns.

Being cooperative is a good quality trait, but being overly cooperative can lead to others taking advantage of your nature, and you may find yourself constantly making compromises in every situation. In such cases, your self-esteem and self-respect can also be compromised.

What is the difference between Assertive behavior and Cooperative behavior?

The difference between assertiveness and cooperativeness is explained below:

Aspect Assertiveness Behavior Cooperativeness Behavior
Definition Expressing your opinions and thoughts strongly in front of others. Willingness to work with others to resolve a conflict.
Goal To speak up, stand for yourself, and value your concerns. To work with others to find a middle ground to a problem.
Focus Focuses on Concern for Self. Focuses on Concern for others.
Interactive Style Strong, firm, clear, and to the point. Collaborative, Respectful, and open.
Conflict Resolution Styles Supported Competing and collaborating. Accommodating and compromising.
Outcome Your voice is heard and concerns are addressed. Conflict is resolved peacefully.
Relationships Relationships may be hampered. Relationships are preserved.
Resolution Short-term resolution. Long-term resolution.

How are assertiveness and cooperativeness used in determining conflict style?

The degree to which an individual is assertive and cooperative during a conflict helps in determining their conflict style. Conflict resolution styles are typically plotted on a graph of Concern for Self (Assertiveness) vs. Concern for Others (Cooperativeness).

How an individual balances these two behaviors in any situation depends on the conflict style they are adopting. Well, the resolution style to be used entirely depends on the situation and it does not guarantee that every problem will have a peaceful and desired outcome.

However, if problem areas are understood thoroughly, perspectives are taken into account, and people’s mindsets are kept in mind, the right conflict resolution style can prove to be quite beneficial in providing a long-term resolution to the problem.

What are Assertiveness and Cooperativeness in relation to Conflict resolution?

Based on the Assertiveness and Cooperativeness plot, five conflict resolution styles can be observed:

  1. Competing: Concern for self is high while concern for others is low or negligible.
  2. Collaborating: Concern for self is high and due importance is given to the concern of others.
  3. Accommodating: Concern for self is low while concern for others is high.
  4. Avoiding: Concern for self and others is low. Characterized by low Assertiveness and Cooperativeness.
  5. Compromising: Concern for self and others is moderate. It’s a state of synched harmony that is characterized by little adjustment and a bit of compromise.

I have covered this topic in depth in my blog article Thomas Kilmann Two-Dimensional Model of Conflict Resolution. If you want to learn more about this topic and understand it better, please feel free to check out this blog post.

Is Assertiveness and Cooperativeness a Skill?

Yes, assertiveness and cooperativeness are skills as using these behavioral styles at the right place and at the right time is important to steer the outcome of the conflict in the direction you desire. See, it’s important to understand that being assertive doesn’t mean blurting out whatever comes to your mind and forcing the other person to agree with you. Words spoken without any thought often don’t carry enough weight which can be realized as significant by the other person.

Before asserting your opinions and thoughts in front of someone, it’s important to understand what needs to be achieved. If you are approaching a conflict to find a middle ground, you’ll focus on asserting those points that have a higher chance of gaining agreement from the opposite party. Such estimation can only be possible when you have thoroughly understood others’ perspectives, learned about their mindset, and carefully analyzed the situation from every angle before presenting your opinion to others. All of this is a skill that can’t be developed overnight; it is built with patience and experience over time.

Cooperating with others, especially on matters where you don’t agree at all, can be quite challenging. Arguments become much easier when both parties demonstrate cooperative behavior and are open to finding common ground. Cooperation does indeed require a positive mindset and empathy towards the concerns of others. These qualities are essential for effective conflict resolution and building positive relationships. If you value others’ opinions and perspectives more than your own, being cooperative becomes much easier and can lead to more productive and harmonious interactions.

Being cooperative is an important skill that can be developed gradually and is incredibly useful in conflict resolution. The top three principles of synched harmony – perspective, mindset, and multidimensional thinking – are indeed valuable tools for understanding others’ viewpoints and expanding your perspective beyond your frame of reference. This can lead to more effective conflict resolution and better relationships.

Developing an attitude to listen and agree with others is not always easy as it requires patience, a calm nature, and a willingness to question your beliefs. These qualities can be developed over time with practice and self-awareness.

How Assertiveness and Cooperativeness can be used together?

Assertiveness and Cooperativeness can be used together in different ways depending on the situation:

  • Competing Approach: When you can use your power and authority to assert your opinions and views strongly in front of others and decline to cooperate with them.
  • Collaborating Approach: When you want to create a win-win situation for both parties, you can put your opinions and ideas strongly while supporting the views and opinions of others as well.
  • Accommodating Approach: When the concerns of others matter to you more than your concern for yourself then by being less assertive and more cooperative you can eradicate the pain areas of others while compromising on your needs.
  • Compromising Approach: When relationships are more important than the argument itself then letting go few of your concerns and adjusting as per the needs of others will make your behavior moderately assertive and cooperative thus achieving a state of synched harmony. It’s also known as intermediate assertiveness and cooperativeness.


To conclude, Assertiveness and Cooperativeness are strong behavioral traits that broadly illustrate the five conflict resolution styles. These attributes are measured on a scale of low to high, and the degree to which people are assertive and cooperative determines the conflict resolution style that is being used. I also explained the differences between these two attributes and delved into details on why they are important skills to have.

I have written several articles related to assertiveness and cooperativeness, which perfectly explain the conflict resolution styles determined by these attributes. If you haven’t read them yet, you can find them under the Conflict Management label. While I work hard to compile this content and strive to add my personal touch to each article, your feedback in the comments section is very much necessary on how beneficial these articles have been for you which will serve as a motivating factor for us, so please let us know your thoughts.

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