Study Guide for Discussion with Others on Conflict Styles


 Use one or several of the options below to structure reflection on conflictstyles in small group settings:

  • Discuss your scores from the inventory in pairs or trios. When it is your turn, share your scores with your partner/s and tell a story about a conflict you’ve been a part of. Do the scores fit your real-life response? What styles would you like to get better at? If your numbers suggest a significant shift in style from calm to storm, are you aware of making such a shift? What factors are most likely to trigger this shift in you? How does the shift affect others?

  • 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 "hot tips" 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.

  • 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?

  • Have someone who knows you well take the test "for" you based on their observation of you. Then compare your own score for yourself and the one they give you. Where do the scores agree? Where do they differ? What are the gifts of your preferred style(s)? What style(s) do you want to work on for improvement? More comprehensive still: Have several people do this for you. In organizations, you can do a "360 feedback" by having people above, beneath, and on par with you take it "for" you.

  • 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?

  • 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?

  • 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?

  • 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.