I spent much of the last month writing new text for the score report of Style Matters. That’s the 10 page personalized report from the online version of my conflict style inventory, whose numbers, with my reflections thereon, go out to users after taking the inventory.
Commanders in military establishments, janitors in neighborhood associations, freshmen at Bible colleges, and pretty much everybody in between read (and I like to think, ponder) this thing; according to logs on our server, nearly 365 days a year.
As usual in our multi-religious family, I did both Pesach and Easter celebrations. Sort of. But mostly, while others congregated for holidays, I wrestled epiphanies in text on my laptop.
And got new hope and vision as I remembered why conflict resolution continues to grip me. Here my traditionalist and my modernist, my believing and my agnostic, my monastic and my populist selves meet. Conflict, or at least reflecting on human responses to it, remains holy ground to this once Mennonite farmer, now aging peace process facilitator.
Conflict Style Awareness is More than Technique
“Conflict management starts with self-management,” we say on the Style Matters frontpage. The lone boatman there launches his journey to an unknown destination, symbol of the journey that peacebuilding can launch us on.
We’re not talking technique here. This is a journey of growth – intellectual, emotional and spiritual – that lasts a lifetime.
The choices we make in conflict – about what to defend and how, what to cut loose and why, the strategies, defenses, and tools we use in dealing with those we disagree with, how to respond to victory and loss – all shape who we become and the legacy we leave. This applies to individuals, institutions, and nations.
One of my long-term goals in the development of Style Matters is to forge a learning tool that corresponds to the richness of the topic it addresses.
Larger issues of purpose, values, and meaning inevitably emerge for those who contemplate response to conflict and are ready to consider them.
It’s not for me to supply answers to those larger issues. But I do aspire, without apology, to devise a learning tool that, as it doles out buckets of tactical insight, fosters awareness that in responding to conflict, in our patterns and habits, over time, our choices shape us, who we become, and the kind of world we leave for others.
Precisely the lack of such awareness blocks the growth and enduring change required to reduce misery and violence in our world.
What’s New in the Score Report
The upgraded report squeezes a lot of additional insight from scores.
For the first time the report now addresses style combinations. Many people have scores that indicate equal preference for two or more styles. This suggests special strengths – and special vulnerabilities.
For example, people who score high in both the Directing style (known as Forcing in the Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument) and Avoiding styles may be unusually well equipped to function in settings of high conflict and wily opponents.
But the skill set that comes with these two styles is not very relational. Such people probably need to make special efforts to build personal relationships. See a sample of part of the text at end of this post for the combination of Cooperating and Compromising
There are ten possible such score combinations in the Mouton Blake framework underlying Style Matters (as well as the Thomas Kilmann instrument, which originally inspired us, first in concept, then as a standard for betterment). The Style Matters score report now provides detailed commentary for those users who score high for one of these combos.
In the coming weeks I’ll add these new scripts to our Trainers Guide for trainers who use paper and pencil versions and don’t benefit from the automated number-crunching of the online version.
I was struck in writing these with how much insight looking at combinations provides. So far as I’m aware, this is new territory among conflict style inventories, including the Thomas Kilmann. I’m eager to hear user comments about this innovation!
In addition, we added tie-breakers to the interpretation algorithm. As a result, tied scores and the uncertainties this creates for some users are now less common.
Yet another upgrade addresses the question: What can you do to improve your patterns of conflict style use? I added many practical suggestions for expanding use of your low-scoring styles.
Together with an upgrade to formatting and headings, this is a major revision that expands the size of the report to 6-10 pages.
How to Get Your New Score Report
If you took the inventory in the past, login now for a fresh read of your report with these improvements. You don’t need to re-take the inventory. The new report uses the data from your previous take and mines it in new ways.
The login has been been moved to the upper right of the front page. If you’ve lost your password, use password recovery under the login fields to reset yours. After login, go to “Style Matters Online” in the top menu, for options to view, print, and email your new report. First time users, order here and then go straight to the inventory.