Interpreting Your Scores

How to Interpret Your Scores


No time to work through the full tutorial? Get the key info about your own main styles in the Score Report in the menu above.
If you have a few minutes, learn about the principles underlying good style management and get valuable info about all the styles, not just your own, in the tutorial that follows.   

If you have not done so already, read your score report. This will need this information as you follow instructions in the tabs below.


Guide to Your Scores

  • Highest Score
  • Lowest Score
  • Scores are Nearly Equal
  • Costs & Benefits of Each

Pay most attention to the style in which you scored highest in Storm. This is the style you are most likely to use when you are in challenging circumstances and emotions are aroused. If you have two styles with equally high scores, study both of them.

Every style has a set of strengths that come with it, as well as a unique set of problems or weaknesses that arise if you rely too much on this style for all situations. It is important to both honor the strengths and recognize the weaknesses of your highest style and to do so in that order.  If you start with the strengths, you will find it easier to also recognize the dangers of over-use of this style and choose other styles when they are more appropriate.

If you have a score of 12 or more in this style or if it is 4 or more points higher than any other style, you are especially likely to experience the costs of unwise use.

Learning activity: Read the section in your Report called "Your Highest Score in Storm"

For additional study, compare your highest style to the other four styles at Benefits of Wise Use and Costs of Unwise Use and Choosing the Right Style (available online only; the info at those links is not in the hard copy printout).

Study the style you use least in Calm. If in doubt (for example, if you have several scores within a point or two of each other), give special attention to the style that you feel is the hardest for you to use well. Since this is the style you are probably least skilled in, expanding your ability to use it will open new options for responding in conflict.

Learning activity: Read the section in your Expanded Report called "Your Lowest Score in Calm"
For Further Learning:
a) Review the strengths and weaknesses of all five styles on the page Strengths and Weaknesses of Each Style and the page Choose the Right Style.

b) Think about skills or attitudes your own lowest style requires and consider ways to strengthen these. There is a good chance that you had early life experiences with people close to you who over-used this style and that this contributes to your reluctance to use the style. If this is so, consider the difference between wise use and over-use. Identify situations that might arise in your life when that this style might be the best response.

If your numbers are very close, within 2-3 points of each other, you may be equally skilled in all styles. This is a strength, the mark of a flexible repertoire of responses to conflict.  However, one limitation of flexibility is that it can make you seem unpredictable to others. In conflicts, give special attention to communicating your intentions so others understand what you are up to. You may have an inner sense that one of the styles is more difficult for you than others. If so, pay special attention to this style.

Learning Exercise: Discuss these numbers with one or several other people. Conflict is a social phenomenon; you will learn more if you make your study of it a social experience as well. You can learn a great deal by comparing numbers with someone else who has taken this inventory. If you are taking the inventory on your own, explain the numbers to a friend or loved one. Ask for feedback: Do the numbers fit what you do in real life?

The concept that each style has benefits and costs is one of the most important ideas in conflict style management. As we become more aware of these, choosing the best response in any situation gets easier.  You can review them for all five styles here.

Learning Exercise. Have a small group discussion. Each person tells their scores and comments on them. There are suggestions of questions for discussion. For one-on-one discussion, see Exercise 1. For group discussion, see Exercises 1-4.

Go to Weathering the Storm Shift....


Five Styles Graphic

Five Styles

Introduction to Conflict Styles (cont'd)

What Goes into a Conflict Style?

An explanation of things displayed in  the "Intro to Conflict Styles" slideshow.

In any situation of conflict, there are two things going on.

One is that people have an agenda, that is, their own goals or expectations. Sometimes we don't care very much whether our own agenda is met and we are not assertive about it. But sometimes we care a lot and are very assertive.So the vertical axis shows this range, from low commitment to our own agenda to high commitment.      Read more here....

A second thing that is going on in any conflict: there is a relationship of some kind. Sometimes we are very committed to that relationship and our response communicates that to others.Other times we are not very committed to that relationship, or at least in that moment we feel and act as though we don't care. That might sound bad, but it is not always wrong - for example, if someone you will never see again shouts an insult at you on the highway, there is no point in worrying about how to"fix" that relationship.Just get home safely and forget about it.On the diagram, the relationship is charted on a horizontal line, again showing that we may have a low focus on ( or commitment to) the relationship or a high focus.

If we put these two dynamics together in a diagram, we can identify five different styles of responding to conflict. The styles differ according to what we are focusing on in the moment of conflict: our own agenda or the relationship or both.

So which style is best?

None of the styles is the best response for all situations of conflict.  Each style is useful for certain situations when other styles wouldn't be very useful.   For example...

The Harmonizing response down there on the right sound great. Isn't it good to give a high priority to relationships?  Harmonizing brings kindness and comfort into relationships.

But kindness and comfort cannot always be our priority. If a child runs into the street, no loving parent will smile sweetly and say "I love you!" There's only one wise response here:  Grab the little wanderer fast, and haul him back to the sidewalk, regardless to his feelings in that moment or the quality of the relationship for the next ten minutes.  That's a Directing response, because the parent doesn't focus on the relationship in that moment - the agenda of saving a life takes priority.

In organizations, if staff are not getting the job done, or doing it incorrectly, no competent manager will Harmonize.  Managers have an obligation to challenge people to higher performance, even if some staff are annoyed by the challenge.  That means a Directing or at least a Cooperating response at times, for both of these push others with our own agenda.

Cooperating is another response that sounds great. High commitment to the task, and to the relationship - the best of both worlds!  Yes, it is a great response for many circumstances.  More than any other of the styles, it is one that really improves the lives of most people when they strengthen their skills in Cooperating. More on that later.  But the point for now is different: Cooperating is not the best response for all conflicts. It takes time, effort, and skill to talk things through in the indepth way required to both push your own agenda and support the needs of others. It's not possible to give that much energy to all conflicts! 

If you try to use cooperating as a response to all conflicts, you will run out of time and energy.  If your organization is buying new office furniture, is it a good use of staff time and energy to have everyone sit down and talk through all the options in the thorough way that Cooperation requires? Probably it is not. Probably it will be much better for your organization if one person, or a small committee, makes this decision for everyone and simply announces the plans.  

Few people have the time and energy required to use a Cooperating response in all conflicts.  Life will be easier and better if we avoid some conflicts, Harmonize in others, or use Directing or Compromising in still others.

In other words, a key goal is flexibility. 

Each style has strengths and weaknesses.  We manage conflict better when we are able to use each style well.  Then we can choose style responses that fit the circumstances we are in.

The difficulty is that most of us get good at and favor one or two styles, and then we tend to rely on it for all circumstances.  We learn much of this when we are still children.  In a family, maybe big brother learns that conflict is no problem - he just uses a Directing style and little brother falls into line.  It works great - until big brother gets married to a woman who doesn't Harmonize like little brother did.  She wants to use a Cooperating style to work out differences and she gets angry when big brother always insists on things his way.  Now he's in a life crisis!  Can he adapt and learn to use other styles as well?  That's the challenge for all of us.  It doesn't matter which styles we prefer.   The challenge is to get skilled in all of the styles and be able to use each one in settings where it is most effective.

Click on Next for a new topic.


Details of Each Conflict Style


Learn Strengths and Weaknesses of Each Style


Why bother?  Because if you don't understand that each style is very useful for certain purposes and quite unhelpful for others, you will probably make things worse for yourself and others in some conflicts, even when your intentions are good.   If you understand each style you will have greater flexibility and freedom to choose the response that is right for you.

Click here for a graphic of all five styles on one page.

Click on the tabs below and get a summary of the strengths and weaknesses of each style.
In reviewing each style, note that:

  • The key difference between the styles is the priorities of the user, that is, whether you focus on your own agenda, the relationship, or both.
  • Each style has a certain kind of power, but it comes from differing sources.
  • Each style provides certain benefits, but also has real limits and costs if relied on too much.


Click on the tabs.

  • Directing
  • Avoiding
  • Harmonizing
  • Cooperating
  • Compromising


Click on Next to learn how to interpret your scores


Intro to Conflict Styles


Click the viewer above for a three minute slide show in Prezi.
You will learn the two most important factors in choosing conflict style and the five styles that result.

For a written explanation, see the essay below.

Trainers: Download your own from our store and take it with you!
Prefer Powerpoint? View the same Intro in Powerpoint format.

When you are ready to move one, click on Next for a new topic.


What Goes into a Conflict Style?

More on the "Intro to Conflict Styles" slideshow

In any situation of conflict, there are two things going on.

One is that people have an agenda, that is, their own goals or expectations.  Sometimes we don't care very much whether our own agenda is met and we are not assertive about it. But sometimes we care a lot and are very assertive.  So the vertical axis shows this range, from low commitment to our own agenda to high commitment. Read more here....

What Trainers Say about Style Matters


What Trainers Say About Style Matters

Quotes by permission of trainers.

There is so much interest in this topic at my campus and I think your learning tools are really fantastic. I really appreciate the support you offer in getting prepared to use them too - it's very impressive and super helpful. The Kraybill Conflict Styles Inventory has been really well-received by program participants, and as a trainer it allows me to cover more content in a more meaningful way during the limited time we have in our conflict skills workshops."

Tracy Dahlstedt-Rienstra, M.Ed.
Health Educator
Prevention & Wellness Services, Western Washington University

Your inventory has been a great success with many groups who have never done this type of work before. I've been using it for years with everyone from commodity traders to public works employees to teachers and police officers, and find it much more "meaty" for them than Thomas-Kilmann or others.

Fran Sepler, President
Sepler & Associates
Minneapolis, MN

I want to say how pleased I am with the instrument. Earlier this Fall I previewed the instrument and Facilitators Guide - last week was the first time I had an opportunity to use it and it was very well-received by the group. Doris Trainor

Director of Employee Relations and Professional Development
Loyola College
Baltimore, MD

Thank you.... The Style Matters approach offers a simple yet very effective method to explain what can be a complicated topic.

Eric Collins, Operations Management Consultant
Next Level
Placitas, NM

Today I used the Style Matters materials to speak with a group of Sunni leaders from Iraq about Interfaith Conflict Resolution. The material on a collectivist vs. individualist culture related to personal resolution strategies was one of the more helpful thing to offer them.
I find your conflict style inventory much more helpful than the Thomas-Kilmann instrument which I had used before. I had learned the distinction between anxious and non-anxious environments in a workshop some time ago, and I always thought that Thomas-Kilmann was much weaker because of the lack of that distinction. The piece that was most helpful to me personally in your report was the observation about a large shift in the conflict style in escalated conflict circumstances. I have been very intentional for years about employing different strategies in different circumstances, but this insight in Style Matters gives more a more nuanced understanding. The idea that I need to temper the swing so that it is not jarring to dialogue partners is really helpful.

Jonathon Eilert, Lead Pastor
Prince of Peace Lutheran Church
Loveland, Ohio

We have enjoyed using Style Matters, especially with cross-cultural teams. Combining it with the Birkman Method allows people to see how their behaviors change under stress when their expectations are not met and offers some practical tips on how they can more effectively react when conflict results. This has been a great instrument for the groups we have trained.

Larry Gay
Leadership Consultant and Coach

Thanks very much......... We were previously using the Thomas-Kilman in our staff trainings and have received a lot of positive feedback since the switch. I’ve also recommended the KCSI to some other organizations that we sometimes share training resources with.

Michael E. Rhodes, LCSW, CPHQ
Director of Quality Improvement
Preferred Behavioral Health of NJ
Brick, NJ

I have found it very useful to return to your site, several weeks and months after initially doing your survey online to explore the many links embedded in my personal report and reflect on my conflict styles.

Assistant Professor
University of Calgary

As an HR consultant team we found your inventory tool and trainer's guide to be very effective. Participants in our last training session really enjoyed and learned from understanding their own conflict style and learning how to more effectively engage with others in a conflict situation. Thanks for developing such a great tool.

Naomi Shivelly
Shivelly L.L.C.
Canton, GA

How do we deal with differences and disagreements? What are our patterns and preferences? Ron Kraybill’s Style Matters questionnaire helps us understand those patterns, and takes our understanding a step further – seeing how we behave when we are calm, and then seeing how our behavior might change under stress.

Blogger/trainer Susan Shearouse
Blog entry titled "Get Over It, It's Just the Way I Am!"
February 18, 2010.
Frameworks for Agreement


We have used the Kraybill Conflict Style Inventory twice since developing our "Workplace Conflict Management" workshop and the tool worked exactly as we anticipated it would work on both occasions. We are extremely pleased and plan to use the tool whenever we train this particular workshop. We are also considering how to best integrate the tool into additional course offerings including leadership and customer service. Thanks for the great tool!

James Reynolds, Organizational Development and Training
Department of Consumer and Business Services
State of Oregon

I use Style Matters: The Kraybill Conflict Style Inventory as a teaching tool in my basic mediation classes and in seminars for experienced conflict resolution professionals. Every time I use the inventory, the participants become thoroughly engaged in learning about their own and others' conflict styles. When they evaluate classes and seminars, they frequently write that they will use the information learned through the inventory.

Walter Wright
Associate Professor
Legal Studies Program, Department of Political Science
Texas State University
San Marcos, TX

Recently I used your conflict style inventory with a local organization.. We spent a day on it and they really liked it. People commented a lot about how much they got out of it. The discussion of different styles helped people understand each other. It created a lot of camaraderie and understanding. We'd had some difficult dynamics among staff recently and the styles discussion helped people talk about their feelings about a key person who uses the Directing style a lot.. People came out of the workshop feeling positive about themselves. I was really pleased with the whole experience.

Phoebe Kilby
Woodstock, Virginia


Having used the Kraybill Conflict Style Inventory for several years, I can say it is hands-down the best thing on the market. I do a fair amount of mediation training and I find that the approach the inventory takes makes it extremely useful for training. I use it close to the beginning of a training session, emphasizing that no response is wrong, that all are appropriate. The results of the test can be used to move into either a discussion on cultural competency, on mediation approaches (facilitative, narrative, transformative,justice models) or launch a group right into specific training such as interest-based negotiation. I've taken the test several times myself and it is always instructional to me. I have also used it with professionals (engineers, planners, lawyers) and find it effective in introducing concepts and skills of conflict resolution.

Laura Bachle
Confluence Consulting

Very helpful in starting discussion and giving us a framework to use when we are processing conflicts within the group. It's simple to understand and fun to work with!

Penn Garvin
Long-time trainer, mediator, community activist and founder of International Peacebuilders (
Managua, Nicaragua

Finally, a multi-faceted tool that unpacks a diversity of conflict styles without putting one in a box. Bravo! The highlights of culture, situational context and conflict intensity are welcomed complexities that give integrity to the inventory. The guidance on how to team together diverse conflict motivations and the reflections for personal and professional growth add depth to the exercise. This is not only a useful conflict styles gauge, it is also a thought-provoking experience in discovering stepping stones for conflict transformation competencies.

Carl Stauffer
Co- ordinator, Regional Peace Network Southern Africa
Mennonite Central Committee

I have found The Kraybill Conflict Response Inventory a wonderful tool in both mediation and counseling settings in the United States and internationally. It has been especially helpful in my leadership training courses taught in the US, Philippines, and Congo-DRC.

Tony Redfern, Executive Director
New Path Center, Inc.
Kingsburg, California

A very useful instrument. Concise, well organized, with easy to follow instructions. Interpretation is clear, simple, and specific. The helpful "Hot Tips for Working with Styles of Others" reflect the competence and experience of the author. This is an instrument I am eager to use in my work as a consultant and teacher.

Marcus G. Smucker, PhD, Emeritus Professor
Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary
Elkhart, Indiana
Congregational consultant, Lancaster, Pennsylvania

I find [the edocs] most informative. The instructions are precise and easy to read. It is clear that you engage yourself fully in the intervention of groups and facilitation of group members. I appreciate that you have taken time to write these articles and are willing to share them at a reasonable cost with others. The information is sure to be of benefit to those in conflict, and to us as group facilitators. We are grateful for your great peace efforts!

Master's student in Conflict Resolution program at Antioch University

The Style Matters inventories were a huge success in class. My students were very fascinated by their results both in private and public settings. We also did group activities and had Directors and Avoiders almost going at it in class, in a good way. In response journals, I had one of my Directors write that the inventory and the conversations in class made her open her eyes to the way others view conflict. She stated that she learned a valuable lesson; to never say that you won't change. I commented that it's about understanding of others. I will most definitely need more copies of the inventory and hopefully, other instructors will start using them in their classes, too. Thank you so much!

Professor at North Carolina College

I just wanted to let you know that the training we conducted using Style Matters was very beneficial to our organization

City Fire Department Trainer in Canada

Thanks for making the process seamless. One issue out of approximately 100 students is a great %! Kudos to all for great communication!

David D. Nemitz, D.Min., Ed.D
Director - Center for Curriculum Development
Associate Professor – School of Divinity
Liberty University

What was the biggest benefit? Having what I already knew about myself put on paper. A real catalyst for change and understanding. I read my profile
to my husband to help him better understand me.

Lawyer in Calgary

Culture and Conflict Styles


High-Context and Low-Context Cultures


Style Matters has a unique feature of cultural flexibility, achieved by inviting users to choose their preferred set of instructions. With Instruction Set A, you answer the questions "in general", that is, as you would typically respond to a conflict. With Instruction Set B, you choose one conflict or a type of conflict, and answer all the questions with that choice in mind. Interesting cultural dynamics lie behind this choice, as described below. 

What difference does it make?

Low context culture conflict resolution

Low Context people feel free to assert their own goals, expectations, and values without much attention to role, status, or duty. Consider the perspective of the knight above as compared with that of the chess piece below.

In his 1976 book Beyond Culture, anthropologist Edward T. Hall suggested that some cultures are "Low Context" and others are "High Context". People deal quite differently with conflict in these cultures.

Low Context cultures are individualistic, and people feel free to assert themselves without much attention to the context. Anyone can express their personal preferences to anyone else with little regard to age, status, roles, duties, or customs. If this sounds like your life, when you take the Style Matters inventory, Instructions A will probably work better for you.

On the other hand, if you live or work in a collectivist or High Context culture, chances are that you have a clear sense that it is important to think carefully about certain things before expressing preferences or making demands on others. In High Context cultures, duty, role, obligation, and expectations of others influence many things, including who can speak out in conflict and with how much assertiveness. Thus, for people accustomed to collectivist patterns, specific information about the context must be known, in particular who the actors are, their status and duties relative to each other, before considering questions about “what to do” in conflict. If this sounds like your life, Instructions B will work better for you, since they guide you to select one specific conflict or kind of relationship and hold it in mind as you take the inventory.

Many people operate in mixed settings, so either instruction set could work. Welcome to the complexities of modernity! You can learn more about the differences between the two modes below, as well as the cultures/regions of the world often associated with each. If you are taking the inventory and remain undecided, you cannot go wrong with Instructions B. They work for everyone, regardless of background, so long as you remember that for all who use Instructions B, the picture of yourself they yield may not fit in circumstances other than the one you chose to think about.

Individualist or Low Context Culture

People from individualist/low context cultures (like mainstream North America, western and northern Europe, and their derivatives) assume freedom to make choices with little reference to roles, customs, group expectations, or others in the surroundings. They are concerned with: What do I want? What does my opponent want? What should I do now? Individuals in dispute think, “I am in a conflict” and respond accordingly.

Collectivist or High Context Culture

People from collectivist/high context cultural backgrounds (like Southern Europe, Latin America, Asia, Middle East, Africa, and aboriginal cultures) are more likely to think “we have a conflict” and "we" includes not just those in the conflict but others around them. The status of the individuals relative to each other as well as the implications of anything they say or do for those around them must be considered.

High context conflict resolution

People in High Context cultures may feel guided in conflict or decisionmaking by an unseen "hand" of social expectations that requires them to consider the entire context. A good person should think not only about what he or she wants. One should also be guided by duty, obligation, and roles in deciding how to respond.

This larger context offers both constraints and resources. Many things influence whether people are free to express a wish or viewpoint to others and if so, how strongly. Key influencing factors may include: age, gender, and status; roles, connections, duty, and obligation to uphold customs.

In collectivist settings, there are powerful expectations for all about what is proper conduct, regardless to personal preferences or conflict styles. No matter what your personal style preference, for example, your opinions are less likely to be challenged if you are from the wealthiest family in such a community, or are an elder in your tribe or the PhD with the most published books in your university. And from the other side of this conflict, you are unlikely to feel free to assert yourself with such a person if your status is near the bottom in such a group. Of course, it is true that roles and status also influence conflict styles in individualist settings, but they do so far more in collectivist settings.

Many Have Experience with Both But Prefer One

Modern people have at least some experience with both modes, irrespective of where we live. In airports and commercial centers in big cities everywhere in the world, many people operate in individualist/low context mode. Who they are, their past, their social status, and their duties to others are mostly neither known nor considered in such settings. People do their business, say what they need, and pass on. In cultures that are largely collectivist, these represent what anthropologist Jennifer Beer calls pockets of individualist behavor in collectivist environments.

Similarly, there are pockets of collectivist behavior in individualist environments. Family gatherings, small religious congregations, cliques of old buddies, neighborhood restaurants with a local clientele are settings where all know each, know “the rules” and the "pecking order", and generally behave accordingly.

But despite our experience with both settings, most of us are more comfortable in one than the other, and we tend to assume that others function the same way we do. This assumption, of course, sets us up for misunderstanding.

Suggestions for Insightful Conversations

In taking this inventory, we invite you to choose the instructions that work best for you in answering the questions. We want the questions to feel appropriate to your reality. If you don't interact with people from cultural backgrounds different than your own, you can choose the instructions that feel right for you and forget about collectivist vs. individualist cultures.

But most people today relate to others from a variety of cultural backgrounds. If this is true for you, you will benefit by understanding how people different than yourself respond to conflict. Watch those around you or ask them questions about how they they deal with conflict, like:

  • When you have a conflict with someone, what factors do you consider in deciding whether to speak up or not?
  • If you had a conflict in your home community with someone who is 20 years older than you, would you feel free to express your opinion? Why/Why not?
  • Do you deal with conflict the same way at work as at home? If they are different, how are they different and why?
  • How did people in your parents' communities deal with differences/conflict when they were younger?
  • How did/do your parents deal with conflict? What did they teach you is important when you are in a conflict?
  • What would you wish to teach children about conflict?
  • Are you ever surprised by how people from a cultural background different from your own respond to conflict? What, specifically, surprises you? How does that differ from the way you were taught to deal with conflict? What do you like about the way people in your culture deal with conflict? Is there anything you admire in the way another culture deals with it

Response to Conflict is a Mirror of Values

These questions will open conversations that can teach a great deal about the differences between individualist and collectivist cultures. And in fact they will take you well beyond that topic if you listen well and reflect deeply. What people think should be done in response to conflict reflects many of the most important values that human beings hold. Conversation about conflict very easily becomes a conversation about life and values.

It is true that conflict can destroy, but it is also true that conflict - and reflecting on what we choose to do about it - can bring hope and possibilities for transformation. Engaging others in exploring this energized terrain is a wonderful way to experience the richness and the paradoxical character of our humanity.

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