Kraybill Table

Blogposts on Conflict Styles and Conflict Transformation by Ron Kraybill

Infographics on Online Training


If you expect to do conflict styles training with Style Matters online, take a minute to scan our new infographics.  They show two different options for getting users pre-paid to the inventory and tracking who has taken it.  

Both get users to the inventory with minimal effort for you or them.  Coupon Access requires no setup time for the trainer.  The Dashboard has more tools for user management but takes 30-60 seconds per user to setup and manage.

Coupon Code Access


Choose Coupons if your priority is minimal setup.   You just send out an email with instructions and the access code to your users, and they show up in your workshop with score report in hand.   It has one function in addition to getting users to the inventory quickly and easily: You can monitor who has taken the inventory with the Coupon Manager.  Your only time requirement as trainer is editing the suggested text we send you to forward to your users and emailing it to them. 

       Order Coupon Access for $6.95 per user.

       Login to Coupon Manager.

Choose Dashboard if your priority is ability to manage user experience.    You can see all your users on the dashboard and delay delivery of the score report to users, view score reports, print, and email them;  monitor who has taken and not taken the inventory, send reminder notes with a single click, create aggregated score reports for a group, etc.

Stop Giving Others Insult Power


Do you know people who get upset and insulted easily?  They may not realize it, but they're setups for easy manipulation. When you’re easily triggered, you’re a sitting duck for anyone having a bad day.  

All it takes is a few choice words. Your buttons are pushed and you shuffle yourself off to the land of the Grumps.

Why give other people that kind of power over you?

Be Un-Insultable

You have no control over the behavior of others.  You can't stop them from being annoying.  But you can remove your "Insult" button from easy public access.  Be un-insultable.  

It’s much easier said than done, of course. But it’s a choice you can make and work at achieving.

Can You Lead in Emergencies?


Can you lead in times of emergency?  Don’t think that's for someone else.  Life exempts none from this call.  

Unless you're a hermit, a time will come when you too must act and lead in the face of danger, no matter your rank or station.

And now is the time to prepare.

Directing Stars in Emergencies

In times of grave threat, tough decisions must be made and actions quickly taken.  What protective measures to take?  Must you flee?  What to carry with you? Who gets priority for assistance?  What about those who won't budge?  Where to shelter and how to get there?

Professional emergency responders such as police, fire, medical, and transportation structure decision-making and action in tight chain-of-command hierarchies.   Superiors decide and give orders; subordinates obey.  

Attacker Spreads Hate, Finds Mercy


The NY Times carries a gripping account about vandalism by young whites against a mosque in Texas.  One youth writes a heartfelt letter of apology and Muslim leaders are so moved that they request the judge to be lenient.   

The prosecutor thinks this is a bad idea and forbids the youth from even visiting the mosque.  Nevertheless, well, just read the story - you won't regret it.

In a time when alienation is widespread, the response of NY Times readers to this story is one of visceral gratitude.  Many comment it is the best they have read in a long time.

This is a story about restorative justice that Americans really need to hear. If we are to find our way back from the abyss of polarization, we have to stop planting seeds of alienation. This requires changes to a justice system that systematically blocks people from relationally-based responses to crime. .

The concept of justice widely known and applied in our society is court-centered punitive justice, which holds no interest in healing of relationships or individuals. The court calls all the shots. The individuals involved have only small roles in the process, and no say in what happens.

Victims often have the tiniest role and the least say in this process. They are expected to provide evidence of wrong-doing and then disappear for the court to mete out punish against an offender.

What Not to Say After Violence

An Important Choice: What to Do and Say After Violence?

Whenever violence takes place as a result of public conflict, well-intentioned leaders face a challenging question.  How should they respond?   What should they say that might reduce possibility of further bloodshed?  

A Painful Lesson from Yugoslav Wars

They can learn from the tragic experience of the Yugoslav Wars in the Balkans in the 1990s where some 130,000 were killed in a decade of horrific genocidal conflict.  

Most of the combatants were religious, loyal to the eastern or western branch of Christianity or to Islam.   All three traditions are home to resources for peace.  Each has scriptures that affirm kindness and peaceful conduct.  Each has individuals deeply committed to peaceful coexistence with others.  

Yet religion played a central role in the violence in the Balkans.  And religious leaders often contributed to the violence rather than help end it.   

General Condemnations of Violence May Make Things Worse

One way religious leaders stoked the war was through public comments on the conflict that superficially seemed to support peace but actually stirred followers up and ultimately supported an upward spiral of violence.  

How to Turn Insult to Dialogue


Public Insult Endangers Even If You're Not the Target

Insult has become a daily aspect of life.  It's hard to read the newspaper or view screens without encountering it.   This is bad, not just for us, but for our future and our children's future. 

Public insult damages more than its target. It erodes community by implanting destructive messages in all who witness it, eg:

  • Human interaction is a battlefield;
  • Being vicious, heartless, and cruel is acceptable in order to win;
  • Feelings of others and values of trust, good relationships, tolerance, and dialogue simply don't matter.

When insult is allowed to have the last word, when it succeeds in silencing or humiliating people, those messages are planted like seeds. Eventually the seeds become norms and people begin acting on them on a broad scale.  Then violence is just a stone's throw away.

Respond to Insult without Being Insulting

Among the many things we can do to prevent this is learning, modeling, and teaching the art of responding constructively to insult, without using insult ourselves.  

Don't fight fire with fire.  Fight fire with water.

Two Conflict Style Workshop Designs


Trainers often ask: how much time to budget for a conflict styles workshop?   It depends!

Traditional Pencil and Paper Format

In traditional pencil and paper training format, you might calculate

  • Handout booklets and give quick instructions - 5 minutes
  • Taking inventory - 10-15 minutes
  • Tally numbers - 5 minutes (each person tallying their own)
  • Explaining core concepts and interpreting numbers - 10-30 minutes
  • Small group and large group discussion - 20-60 minutes

That would be enough to cover the basics of conflict styles in 80-120 minutes.  You could easily do a lot more, of course, if you have another hour or several more.   See my Trainers Guide, available as a free download, for ideas.   

Conflict Styles Training with Digital Support

Online tools open another scenario that many trainers like because it pushes individual activities outside of workshop time and allows the trainer to dedicate more classroom time to discussion.  

Using the online version could look something like this:

How Does Conflict Style Shape Destiny?


How_Conflict_Style_Shapes_Destiny.png" alt="How is a Score Report" width="639" height="360" />

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.

Too Ticked to Talk Nice



You can't do conflict resolution without doing anger management.

Anger is an emotion that everyone needs.  Don’t wish it away.  It provides resources essential to self-protection and survival.  It helps us respond quickly, with high energy, to dangerous or unpleasant situations.

But that doesn't mean it's fine to rant when you're pissed.

Talk About Anger in a Non-Angry Way

Researchers in several fields find that expressing anger in an angry way feeds the problem.

Trump and Conflict Styles

TrumpTweet Jan15-17

We can Learn a Lot from Trump about Conflict Styles

The weekend brought a textbook example of under-use of conflict avoidance and its costs.

It started on Friday when Rep. John Lewis picked a quarrel with Trump. "I don't see this President-elect as a legitimate president,"  he announced in a press statement.  Saturday Trump fired back with tweets.

In the context of the long holiday weekend honoring Martin Luther King’s birthday, the exchange echoed thunderously in the media.

Result?  Lewis’ book sales skyrocketed.  By Sunday leading newspapers were carrying reports that his books were in the top 20 list of booksales and Amazon had sold out all copies of his best known work.

You Can't Delete Religious Extremism

religion and conflict

This diagram contains important clues about an alternative to the widely held notion that religious extremism can be forcefully countered. It's from Ian White, a key strategist behind the scene in stabilizing the Northern Ireland peace process.

[caption id="attachment_1048" align="aligncenter" width="638"] Diagram by Ian White - more readable here - shows alternative to "countering" religion

Religion is deeply embedded in human experience. The goal in responding to religious extremism must be to work with and constructively engage the powerful energies of religion rather than to remove or thwart them, what White calls "countering".

The latter rarely work out as expected. To the extent that strategies to counter extremism are violent, they share and strengthen the underlying assertion of extremism, that force is acceptable and effective in building a desirable future. Even when not violent, if such strategies fail to engage religious leaders, they are devoid of understanding of the world from which extremism emerges; and thus bereft of potency and sustainability.

Transformation: A Sustainable Response to Extremism

The only option for responding to religious extremism without making things ultimately worse is a strategy of transformation.

Such a strategy works respectfully and knowledgeably in regard to the role religion holds in human functioning and it engages religious people where they are. It actively seeks out and finds common cause with those values, symbols, traditions, individuals and institutions that support non-violent responses to human diversity; responses that exist in virtually all religious milieu, even if not always apparent from a distance.

Because the only realistic goal is transformation, not transmission or domination, such an approach must be a dialogue, not a monologue.

Trainers Guide to Conflict Styles



Just re-released: my Trainers Guide to Successful Conflict Styles Workshop. Now 38 pages in the 2017 edition, it's still free.

Like earlier versions, this one gives step-by-step guidance for trainers.  My aim is to make it easy for anyone with basic group leadership skills to lead successful conflict styles learning.

New in this edition are sections on training supported by online tools.  With a third or more of the US workforce working from home, multi-platform environments and extensive online interaction are the norm for many.  Trainers tooled only for live classrooms are obsolescing.

If you're in a hurry, just hit download and abscond with the goods!If you have a few minutes for some history, read on.

Kudos to TKI

I'll always be grateful to Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann, creators of the venerable Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument, for turning me on to the conflict style inventory. Though their inventory was proceeded by Jay Hall's and others, with the TKI I discovered the power of conflict styles for training.  To me, if not Adam and Eve, they're the Abraham and Isaac of conflict style inventories.

Do this for Less Holiday Conflict


If you've already spent time with relatives this holiday season perhaps you've discovered things are not all fa-la-la at family gatherings.  Getting together is great, but it can also bring conflict. All that cozy togetherness gives space for old issues to appear in new forms.

In a year when politics has polarized, more rancor than usual is likely to get served along with the turkey. Here’s what you can do about it.

Start with a resolution to be nimble at conflict avoidance. You can’t stop others from being pissants, but you can decline to be baited. Avoidance is a great conflict style for situations where you don't have any real goal other than staying out of difficulty.

You probably already know which people and circumstances can handle candor and which cannot. Prepare lines for conflict harmonizing and avoiding that you can easily pull out when needed. To that annoying relative who can’t resist a verbal poke about politics or some other dicey topic, come back with responses that re-direct or de-escalate.

- “You know, I promised myself I’d stay on safe topics this year. Tell me about your new job….”

Don't Resolve Conflict, Utilize It

Conflict Utilization - Turning Difference into Creative Change on Vimeo

If you like the conflict styles framework and want compatible tools to build the capacity of your organization or team, check out the trove of short videos by Dr. John Scherer.

Don't Resolve or Manage Conflict, Utilize It

For example,  in a 6 minute video clip on  "Conflict Utilization", Scherer explains why you shouldn't  be too quick to "resolve"  or "manage" conflict. Odds are you will end the conflict prematurely and thus lose an opportunity to talk deeply, think carefully and make necessary changes.

In the last two minutes Scherer lists 4 concepts and tools valuable for helping groups and team use conflict well:  The Pinch Theory, Three Worlds, The Four Languages, and Polarity Thinking.  He dedicates a short video to each of those concepts on the same site.

I especially recommend the video on polarity management.  That's a powerful tool that I've found dramatically effective in certain conflicts. It should be in the toolkit of all who resource organizations and their leaders.

John Scherer is an esteemed elder in the field of organizational management and change who brings wonderful clarity and humanity to everything he does.  He has posted 100+ free short videos over the last two years on organizational management and change management, many with valuable tools for making conflict a positive experience.

Fringe Groups at Edge of Talks


Columbia's peace process includes a problem that recurs in many national peace processes: What to do with groups whose tactics or ideology makes them unacceptable? My life experience has taught me to move towards, not away from such groups.

In Columbia, an agreement was announced on September 26, 2016, between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), ending 52 years of fighting. Left out of this agreement is the National Liberation Army (ELN), a more radical and smaller insurgency whose practices have included kidnapping civilians. The ELN has refused to renounce this practice as a precondition to talks.

I have no knowledge of the details of the Columbian peace process, but I recognize this as an old problem. In South Africa, the Philippines, Israel/Palestine, and other large peace processes I've been close to, there is almost always at least one group like this.

Kristin Herbolzheimer of Conciliation Resources writes insightfully about how to respond in a recent post that I recommend. There are no simple answers to such situations and Herbolzheimer clearly recognizes that. But he explores reasons why ELN has been reluctant to enter fully into talks and offers useful ideas in response.

Personal experience in several big peace processes taught me that some of the most important insights essential to sustaining peace on the long-term can be had by studying the "fringe" groups. I recall here the Pan-Africanist groups at the fringes of the South African talks whose epithets were often blood-curling. Pondering their slogan "One settler, one bullet", it felt pretty weird to be going off for a 3 day workshop with regional leaders of the Pan Africanist Congress in a township of Port Elizabeth in 1990.

Nothing About Us Without Us

Nothing about us without us

Injustice is a big problem.   But it's always a symptom of a deeper cause.

Wherever people aren't getting their fair share, you'll find patterns of decisions being made without genuine participation of people affected by them.

You can't build lasting peace and you won't get justice if people feel excluded from decisions they care about.  That works sometimes for a little while but in the end things fall apart.

If you want to fight for justice, go for root causes. Fight for good process, starting with the groups where you hold power or influence. If you don't make good process a priority there, your base will eventually collapse and everything you've done will be lost.



Conflict Styles Training at Distance


[Written three years before the pandemic, this post is more relevant than ever now that most training is online.]

A challenge conflict styles trainers often face is limited time in workshops or little face-to-face access to people needing training. What then?

Here are options that can still bring good results, sometimes even better than a relaxed face-to-face workshop:

    1. Use the online version.  The online version of the Style Matters inventory is optimized for remote users and has an onsite tutorial that supports self-study.   

    2. Have them start at home.  Have people take the inventory at home before they arrive at a training event.  Both online and print versions of Style Matters are self-explanatory, so you can instruct your users to come to the workshop with the inventory already taken and a score report in hand.  Bingo, you just saved at least 15 minutes of precious workshop time! In your workshop, start with the Intro to Conflict Style slideshow (see Free Resources in top menu on the front page of and continue with input on topics covered in the Trainers Guide.

    3. Maybe you're working remotely with people and can't even gather them into a workshop.   Have them take the online version and review the score report on their own.   Then schedule a Zoom call and discuss results, using one of the exercises described on the webpage, Ideas for Discussing Conflict Styles with Others.

    4. Do a series, not a one-off event. In all circumstances, you will have the greatest effect on relationships and the culture of an organization or group if you interact with participants repeatedly across time rather than in a one-off event.   An online series will probably have more impact than a single face-to-fact event.

    5. Assign independent work. Can't even do a web conference?  You could have an individual, a team, or a whole group take the inventory and work through the inventory on their own as individuals.  Then assign them to have a series of conversations based on assignments/topics you create for them drawing on the above resources.  If you want to be really thorough, you could ask them to send you a written summary of key insights they learned from the experience.  In that case, make it a conversation by replying to their summary.

    6. Journaling. With any of the above, you could have people do journal entries, just for themselves, or to share with you as trainer.   Ideas for topics: 

- "Key Insights about my conflict styles that I learned from taking Style Matters" 

- "Three things I want to try to do differently with others in my group (and why) as a result of learnings from Style Matters" 

- "Reflections on a week/month of effort to apply insights from Style Matters in relationships to others"

- "My strengths and weaknesses in conflict styles - reflections following taking the Style Matters inventory".

- "Two successes and two challenges I faced this week in applying insights from the Style Matters inventory."

- "A personal response to Principles of Wise Response to Conflict

In all cases where you are working with reports or reflections sent to you, if your purpose is to facilitate learning, make at least some reply to journals, even if only a few sentences. If you fail to do this, the writers are more likely to experience your presence as that of an authority figure to whom they are reporting rather than as a coach. The coaching role, of course, is generally more likely to facilitate reflection and learning role than an authority figure role.

Conflict as Spiritual Path


Conflict style awareness is truly useful in day-to-day management of differences.  It's easy to learn.

But not so easy to do!

Easy:  Learning the basics of conflict styles.  Do this in a few minutes with this free "Intro to Conflict Styles".  You can figure out your own conflict style almost as quickly by taking a conflict style quiz (such as my Style Matters; the Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument, or even a cross-cultural one).

Challenging:  remembering, in the heat of conflict, to use those great conflict resolution strategies.  We are hardwired by nature with a tiny set of responses when we are frightened or angry: flight, fight, or freeze.  Those three simple responses enabled survival in the jungle and you can witness them any time you want in the animal world.  But they have limited use for human beings today.

To build partnerships and solve problems in a complex world we need additional options for responding, and the ability to choose rather than merely react.  We acquire these capacities, not by relying on instinct, but by thought, practice, and reflection.

Can We Market Peace?

Neil Patel

Conflict resolution and human development people could learn a lot from business marketers.  We have a message and tools that address critical challenges for human beings.

We should learn from the best practices of those who are successfully using modern tools of communication to influence others.  At this time, those are online business marketers.

True, online marketing is often shallow and manipulative.  Yet, for better or for worse, its success in influencing people means we have to understand it.  Amidst all the hype, we can learn valuable insights about how to communicate.

I follow a small number of online marketers who meet all of the following criteria:
1) They have a track record of success in reaching others in their business efforts;
2)  They are in the school of marketing thought and practice known as inbound marketing, which says that the best way to be a successful marketer is to truly meet genuine needs of your clients.  If you do this, and use effective strategies to become visible and interact with them, clients will come, say the inbound marketers.
3) They demonstrate a commitment not just to making money but also to actively doing what they can to make the world a better place.  I especially respect those personally involved in philanthropic efforts.

Among these is Neil Patel, who blogs at   He's wonderfully strategic, pays great attention to detail, and he works hard at communication.  His writing is simple, clear,  and accessible, with that odd blend of humility and self-confidence that characterizes many successful agents of change.  I have no relationship to him, financial or otherwise.

Here's a recent blog post:

If you are involved in any kind of effort to educate or bring change to human beings, read it!  It's one of the better summaries I've seen on communicating for impact.  I immediately changed the title of a recent blog post after reading his second point.

If you are thinking of using the web to reach people, you might sign up for Patel's site and pay attention to the stuff he sends.  He has studied every step of the journey of interaction with people and refined what he does to increase the odds that in the end you will decide that he's got what you need and will buy from him.  You can learn a lot by observing how he seeks to win your trust.

OK, he's selling services, to income-generating businesses.   His strategies are designed to reach people deeply motivated by desire.  That's different than communicating for social change or peace.

Peace, we know, is not a commodity.  It can't be marketed.  It's a gift that follows good choices and habits of mindful living.

But. Desire is certainly at the heart of most human choices, and that is not all bad.  And there is no denying that misdirected desire is a great enemy of peace.  So we better learn how to work in the presence of this powerful drive and, when we can, harness its energy for good.

I get useful ideas every time I read Patel or other web marketers like Perry Marshall, Michael Stelzner, and Pat Flynn and I think change agents everywhere can learn from people like them.  But there is an overwhelming amount of stuff out there.  We need to help each other separate the wheat from the chaff.

I'd love to hear your thoughts about:

  • To what extent can we adapt highly refined strategies from people like Patel across into efforts for peace, justice, human development and care for the environment?
  • What strategies and resources from the marketing world have you found useful?
  • Where have you been disappointed by things you've tried to apply from marketers?

Use This Powerful Force for Change

Call to Deep

By adopting practices of interaction largely stripped of symbols and moments to engage Depth, we cut ourselves off from the most powerful source of energy for creativity, connection, and change available to us.
Are you exploring the power of symbols in your work in conflict resolution and human development?

I am moved by an email I recently received from Samaritan Inns, which serves homeless people. “At Samaritan Inns, during every counseling session, we sit out one empty chair. Every client knows that this chair represents the person who isn’t here yet. This is the next client that walks through our doors and onto the road to recovery.”

That empty chair is a potent symbol of hope. It doesn’t take a lot of time or effort to place it, or to explain the meaning of its presence. It will be forgotten during most of an intense counseling session.

Yet it serves as a tangible, here-and-now reminder of things every person in counseling benefits from remembering. He or she is not the only one who suffers. The journey of recovery awaits, for all, whenever they choose to begin it. There is hope for things to get better.

As a symbol, the empty chair invokes these things without preaching, without words. It speaks silently, by its mere presence, to the depths that reside in all human beings but often remain untouched.

The Call to the Deep is often abused. All of us have been subjected to people who shout the Call or try to impose their interpretation of it on others.

As modern people we've rightly reacted to such manipulation. But we’ve also thrown out the baby with the bathwater. In adopting practices of interaction stripped of symbols and moments to engage Depth, we cut ourselves off from the most powerful source of energy for creativity, connection, and change available to us.

The Deep that resides within each human being (or “beyond”, if you prefer) offers its power only to those who seek it through hopeful choice. Loud proclamations, angry condemnations, and invocations of guilt obstruct access to this place.

In today’s  world of competing narratives we’ve exhausted the power of words to call upon that place of deep knowing where we hear and remember Depth.  I’m quickly bored and rarely moved by verbal strategies to take us there. I’m refreshed, intrigued, and inspired by non-verbal ones.

Movement, symbol, sound, smell, silence.

If you were to place an empty chair in your classroom, workshop, session, or meeting, what would you want it to symbolize?

With what symbols do you or might you remind the people you work with that they are not alone in their pain, that “this too shall pass”, that warmth and love still exist even if we don’t feel them right now, that moments of “better” will come, that forgiveness is possible?

What strategies and practices have you experimented with, or better, built into the routines of your work or life that invite all present to the River, that place of the Deep where human beings meet hope, light, and possibility for fresh beginnings?