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People love to talk about conflict. When we've had a quarrel, we tell the story to a friend. We get a feeling of connection when someone confides in us about a fight.
Conflict engages us at every level - emotional, intellectual, physical, spiritual. We're wired for this. For our ancestors, only those who paid attention to conflict and figured out choices supporting survival lived to pass along their genes and habits. As their descendents, we inherit their knowledge that this is important conversation.
So conflict and what to do about it is one of the most interesting and energizing topics you can raise with others. That is, if they feel it is safe to talk about it. If you're :thinking about setting up such conversation:
Here are questions that many people are happy to share about, in one-on-one settings, in workshops, or in small group discussions. Many of these work well in "getting to know you" situations as well!
1. Discuss your scores from the inventory in pairs or trios. Do this in rounds. That is, everyone responds to Round One questions, then everyone responds to Round Two question. If you want to get a quick review of the conflict styles framework first, view this Powerpoint "Intro to Conflict Styles"
2. Meet in small groups of similar-style people. For example, in one group is Directors, in another Cooperators, etc. If you have nearly equal scores in two styles, choose the style that seems to get you in difficulty the most. Discuss the information in the pages above about the style of your particular group. Go around the small group and give each person chance to reflect on himself or herself:• Which strengths of the style do you see present in your handling of life and relationships?• Which weaknesses or costs from overuse do you see?• Which "partner support" suggestions do you find especially applicable to you?When you reconvene as a whole group, with all styles present, have a reporter from each small group give a summary of insights from that group to the whole group, so others can increase their understanding of each style.3. People who live or work together benefit greatly from conversation about their styles.A suggested discussion sequence:• Share scores with each other.• Reflect on the scores, with each person responding to the questions in item 2 above.• Recall a time when differences arose between you. Do the scores reflect how you actually responded?• Each person can reflect aloud, in the presence of others, on the "Hot Tips" pages. Which hot tips would they particularly like others to use that would help bring out the best in the speaker?4. Have someone who knows you well take the test "for" you, as though they are you answering the questions. To get a really comprehensive picture, have several people do this for you. Then compare your own scores for yourself with the scores given by others. Where do the scores agree? Where do they differ? In organizations, you can do a "360 feedback" by having people above, beneath, and on par with you take it "for" you; this gives complete feedback from all sides.
5. People in teams and organizations will be rewarded by discussing the impact of styles in times of negotiation or decision-making. Each style has different preferences for how to go about things (e.g., how direct and open to be in stating preferences, how much relationship-building time to include in decision-making, how rapidly to make decisions, etc.) Discuss: What insights do we get about our collective decision-making processes from looking at these scores? About difficulties we’ve encountered? About how to improve decision-making in the future?
6. If there is no time or willingness to discuss the full report, partners or teams can do a useful exchange based only on the Partner Support section. Each person reviews on their own the suggestions in the Partner Support section of their own score report. They highlight suggestions they like, the things they would appreciate others to do for them when working together. They edit and add to those as they see fit, creating a set of Partner Support suggestions for others. They then share these, orally or in an email, for the benefit of others.
This is more satisfying and impactful if done orally, face to face, with opportunity to ask clarifying questions and respond. (If there is a history of difficulty among people in the group, there's no alternative.)7. People in teams and organizations benefit by discussing difficult style combinations. A lot of conflicts escalate because the people involved have different style preferences and thus prefer differing approaches to dealing with differences. For example, Directors and Cooperators want to put things right out there and talk about them now, whereas Avoiders prefer to step back and think about things first. Each tends to assume that "good" people would use the approach they favor. As a result, there are now two sources of tension - one about the issues and the other about how to deal with the issues!With others in your team or organization, identify particular pairings of styles that commonly cause difficulties. Think about recent conflicts. In what ways did style expectations play a role? What insights can people exchange about the needs of the styles involved that would ease future conflicts?8. If your group has people from both individualist and collectivist cultural backgrounds (see Note 1 first on page 24), you can have an illuminating discussion. Separate into small groups of individualists only or collectivists only. Ask each group to create a picture showing a conflict someone in their group has experienced, using vehicles as a major part of the drawing. Have each group share with the larger group: What kind of vehicles did they choose for the parties and why? Who is driving the vehicles? Who else is in the picture and with what connections to the conflictants? What factors do conflictants consider in deciding how to respond to the conflict? When all groups have shared, reflect as a whole group: What insights do you gain about differences between individualist and collectivist conflicts?9. Here is a discussion for group settings that inspires hope:Select two people who work together and have different styles, but know and trust each other well. Have them talk in the presence of the whole group about their style differences, how they see each other, how they have learned to work with and respect each others’ unique patterns of dealing with conflict.