Training Outline for Style Matters Online


The following outline is for training with the Online Version of the Style Matters conflict style inventory.  The Online Version provides a detailed score report generated by our server containing 8-10 pages of interpretation and suggestions based on the user's scores (sample copy here).  Trainers have access to powerful online tools to make quick work of administering the inventory to groups (infographic here).  

The outline below outlines a workshop 1 and 1/2 to 3 hours in length.  For more detailed explanation of concepts referred to below, download our free Trainers Guide to Successful Conflict Style Workshops, a comprehensive 40 page guide downloadable as a free PDF.   This larger guide is written to support training with the print version of Style Matters, and goes into details not covered below. 

Before the Session    

Trainer should beginning preparation by reviewing these assumptions:

    • Voluntary participation.   This outline assumes motivated learners who choose to take Style Matters out of their own interest in learning or self-improvement.
    • Score report in hand. Users must have already taken the Online Version of the Style Matters inventory and have the score report on paper (preferably, so they can make notes) or on screen.  View options for getting the Online Version to users here.  Order the Online version in quantity here.
    • Handouts.  You can do the whole workshop on the basis of the print score report alone without additional handouts.  The outline below assumes this.  But if time allows, the workshop will go deeper if you use some handouts to augment the workshop.   You can download these free (to you, please do not circulate it in PDF) in order to provide indepth info about each of the styles.  Download these handouts here.   To open the PDF you need a password, which is:  stylematters
    • Web access by each user to the Style Matters site (in order to use the free “Intro to Conflict Styles” slideshow there).  If online access is not available, you can also purchase and download the slideshow.
    • Interactional environment.  The session outlined below assumes conversation at several points. If the group is large and/or people are reserved, have participants chat with 1-2 others sitting next to them when the outline suggests asking a question.  Invite questions as you move along.
    • An informed trainer/consultant.  To guide users through their score report, the trainer/consultant needs a good grasp of core concepts of conflict styles.  Take the online inventory yourself and study your own score report so you’ve thought through the issues likely to come up your clients.   Free online resources for this are:  The Online Style Matters Tutorial and the Trainers Guide to Successful Conflict Style Workshops.

Starting Off in the Session

Review time frame (typically 45-90 mins)
Review agenda for this session:  
  a) Overview of conflict styles framework
  b) The impact of stress - Calm Style vs. Storm Style
  c) Awareness as the Goal (not Perfection)
  d) Overview of scores
  e) Highest scoring style in Storm
  f)  Lowest scoring style in Calm
  g) Additional resources
  h) Follow-up

The Conflict Styles Framework

Time: 10-15 minutes
Background Reading for Trainer: Short essay here.  


Use the free ‘Intro to Conflict Styles” slideshow on the Riverhouse site.  This is available in Powerpoint or in Prezi (Prezi is similar to Powerpoint, but with movement) but it’s also easy to draw freehand on a whiteboard. If you want, you could have users view this before your session on their own, after they’ve taken the inventory.  There is a copy of the five-styles chart here in case you want to print it out.

Ask (after reviewing the framework): Does the logic of the five styles framework make sense to you? (No need for them to understand details of the styles yet, but make sure users grasp the core concept of “task (or goals) vs relationship” and how the priority we give to these affects conflict style.)

Calm vs. Storm - the Storm Shift

Time: 3-5 minutes

Background Reading for Trainer:  Essay on Weathering the Storm Shift

We experience conflict in two settings, Calm and Storm:
- Calm describes small disagreements, when there are differences but no big emotions. McDonald’s vs. Burger King?  Walk or take the bus?  Meet at 2 or at 4pm?  Your Calm response is the conflict style you use when you are calm.
- Storm describes conflict after there has been effort to resolve things with no success.  Stress and emotions have entered the picture.   Your Storm response is the conflict style you use in this intense setting.

Some people have the same conflict style in Storm as in Calm.  But many make a noticeable change in conflict style.   We call this the Storm Shift.   This inventory scores you in Calm and Storm and measures your Storm Shift.  We’ll come back to that later.

Ask:  Does the concept of Calm and Storm make sense to you?

Awareness as Goal

Time: 3-5 minutes

Background Reading for Trainer: Principles of Wise Response to Conflict in the Style Matters Tutorial.


Before we look at scores, there’s an important concept to understand:  There are no “good styles” or “bad styles”.   All five of the conflict styles have particular strengths and limitations.   When we look at scores, it’s like measuring your foot size so you can get the right size shoes, or the color of your hair and eyes, so you can pick clothes that bring out the best in you.  

Whatever your numbers, there are strengths that come with those numbers and unique challenges that come with them. The goal is to be aware of these, to know your habits. Then you can use your strengths better and create strategies to address the challenging areas.       

Overview of Scores

Time: 3-5 minutes
Background Reading for Trainer: “Interpreting the Numbers”, pages 18-19 of the Trainers’ Guide to Conflict Styles Workshops (download free from Riverhouse ePress). Note that that guide is written for the paper version of the inventory, whereas this outline supports the online version.


The Numbers.  We start with an overview of scores and then fill in the details.  Circle your lowest style in Calm settings in the chart and your highest in Storm settings.  If there are 2 or 3 styles with the same score, circle all of them.  Some people have style combinations.  We’ll discuss those later in the report if you have any.

We will look first at your highest scoring style in Storm, since this is the style that’s most active when you are upset and under stress.  
Then we will look at your lowest  scoring style in Calm, since this is the style you probably use the least.

Highest Score in Storm

Time: 10-25 minutes

Note to trainers: People learn best when they are coming from a sense of confidence and self-appreciation.  Doing the section on the strengths of a user’s Storm style before looking at "Costs of Overuse" of this style lays an important emotional foundation for taking a more critical look at this style, so do not rush it.  Take several minutes to review and appreciate the strengths of their highest storm style.  If you have time, invite the user to share, with you or others in a small group, a memory of a time when he/she used this style in a way that reflects the strengths listed here.  


Appreciate Strengths of Highest Scoring Style in Storm.   Your highest score in Storm is in the ___ style.
In the score report, review the list of strengths that tend to come with this style.   Do you recognize any of those in yourself?  (Invite comment out loud.  If you are doing this one-on-one, the user can address this to you.  If in a group, it works well to form small groups of 2-5 and invite people to go around their small group one by one and share with others what their highest scoring style(s) is and to review strengths that they see in themselves in this style.)

Costs of Overuse of this Style.  The danger with any style that we score high in is that we over-use the style.  That means, we use it in situations where another style would be more appropriate, or we turn up the volume too high in use of the style.  The next section in the score report is “Costs of Over-Use”.  Review those and note any that you recognize happen for you.  (Ditto the instructions in last paragraph about working one-on-one or with small groups.)

Steps to Maintain Balance.  Review the list of suggestions and consider what might help you avoid over-use of this style. (Ditto the instructions about working one-on-one or with small groups.)

Support Strategies for this Style.   Each style thrives in the presence of certain conditions.   There’s a list of those conditions for your preferred Storm style. Review those and note ones you think would be especially helpful to you.  Those are things that other people could do if they want to help you function at your best, without distress.  These are not things we would expect an opponent to do for you, but people who live and work with you and want to help you function at your best would benefit from knowing these things about you. (Ditto the instructions about working one-on-one or with small groups.)

An additional exercise to consider:  On the Riverhouse website there is a MySupport page with resources that make it easy to create a list of support strategies tailored to a user’s preferences.  Creating such a list is excellent preparation for a conversation in team settings or between work or domestic partners about how to mutually support each other to function at their best.  Users simply go to that page, copy and paste a list of suggested support strategies for any style they want into a Word document and then edit, deleting those that aren’t relevant and adding any they want.  

Lowest Style in Calm

Time: 10 minutes


In Calm settings people are normally at their best. Without the distraction of strong emotion, it is easier to choose responses rather than reacting.  Calm settings give you opportunity to expand your range of conflict styles by experimenting with greater use of styles you have not used much.   

Benefits of Your Lowest Scoring Style.  In your score report, review the benefits of your lowest style in Calm in the section, “You Scored Low in Calm in the __ Style” and in the following section “When to ___ (whatever style you are lowest in).  Circle or make a note of the benefits you recognize may be missing in your life. (Trainer then invites user to share and briefly comment about these with the trainer or with others in a small group)

Ideas for Strengthening Lowest Style in Calm.  Continuing in the report, the next section suggests ways you could strengthen your lowest style in Calm. Study those and note those that appeal to you.  (Trainer invites brief comments by user.)

Style Combinations

Time required: 0-10 minutes

Some users (about a third) have comments under a heading “Style Combination” in the score report, just before the section on Storm Shift.  If the algorithm guiding the creation of the score report notes certain patterns (for example, that someone scores low in the same style in both Calm and Storm), they will be noted here, with suggestions about managing this.

In addition, perhaps a third of users have scores that are quite similar in two or three styles.   The algorithm notes these and adds special comments about this at the end of the section on Highest Score in Storm.

Ask users if their report has comments under “Your Combinations of Scores” or if there style combinations noted at the end of the section on High Score in Storm.   If the answer is yes, invite the user to read these and see if they have any questions.  

Storm Shift

Time: 3-10 minutes

Background Reading for Trainer: The essay, How to Manage Your Storm Shift in Conflict Resolution, describes the Storm Shift and how to manage it.

Have users review the section “Your Storm Shift” in the score report.   If the Storm Shift is only one or 2 points, there’s no need to spend much time here.  But if the Storm Shift is 3 or more points, invite user comments: Are he/she/they aware of a shift in conflict style when conflict heats up (self-awareness being the most important step towards managing the shift)?  Which of the suggestions in the score report for managing the Storm Shift seem useful?

Additional Resources

Time required: 0-10 minutes

Background Reading for Trainer: Dozens of free web resources on conflict styles and conflict resolution are annotated on this page of the Riverhouse site in various themes.   As trainer you may want to click around on those yourself in advance.


Time required: 0-10 minutes

If a user has clearly found the inventory insightful, he or she might be motivated to do followup activities. You could have a discussion with such a person, or invite him or her to write a memo of advice to self. What are the things he or she wants to work on in the coming month? Urge specificity, with whom, when, where, how?  If you as trainer are in a position to do individual follow-up, this memo would be a great place to start conversations later. Eg: let’s review your “Memo to Self”. How do you feel you are doing with it?

If you are working with colleagues from the same organization, Ralph Kilmann’s essay, The Three-Day Washout Effect After a Workshop has excellent suggestions for facilitating ongoing conversation among colleagues who have all taken a conflict style inventory.

Copyright 2017 Ron Kraybill,  This document may be used and shared with others for personal and commercial purposes so long as proper attribution is made.  It may not be reproduced or posted online without permission of the author.  Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..