Conflict Management Personal Reflection Assignment
MBA502 Fall 2016
Part 1 Conflict styles
Read the conflict chapter and handouts, and complete the quizzes or assessments. Think about a time when you experienced conflict with someone else – even if you didn’t express it at the time. Perhaps you disagreed with someone on something important, you had competing goals or ideas, or you felt offended or angry.) Look for examples of both covert* or hidden conflict, and overt* or open conflict. Note: Most conflicts do not result in screaming matches, and many are not openly surfaced. See the definitions at the bottom of the page.*
- Take the quiz in the Conflict folder, and review the self-assessments in the conflict chapter of the textbook. If you think you handle conflict differently at home vs school vs work, then take the quiz again focusing on a different setting. Try to think of how you actually behaved, in similar situations, not just how you think you should It may help to take this quiz along with someone you know well. You could score each other based on how you’ve seen one another react to situations. Review your scores, and rank order them. Which conflict management styles had the highest scores?
- Read the conflict handout and text material on the five conflict management styles. Reflect on your scores and your conflict experiences. Try to think of at least one real-life example that illustrates each of your major styles. [If you can’t think of a time you used a style, it is likely that you value the style, but need to be alert to find opportunities to use it in real-life.] Which styles do you think you use the MOST in different aspects of your life? (Regardless of the test scores.)
- Observe conflicts. Think back to conflict situations that you observed with other people. Provide at least 1-2 examples of effective and ineffective conflict management. Which behaviors were effective, which were ineffective? Which conflict management styles did the people use?
- Describe and reflect on examples of conflicts in your own life: Think of at least 2-5 times when you experienced a feeling of conflict (even if you didn’t speak up). Include examples of both covert/hidden conflict and overt/open conflict. Also, pay attention to clues that someone might have an unspoken conflict with you. For each example, briefly describe the situation, and describe how each person behaved or reacted, and how or if it was resolved. Identify which conflict management style and other skills you used, and why. Try to include examples that demonstrate all five different styles if possible (perhaps one person in a conflict was competing and the other avoiding). Reflect on what the examples teach you about your own conflict management styles. Given what you know now, would you handle any of those situations differently today?
Note: If you use any examples from your team project, it is permissible to also discuss it in your individual team insights paper.
- Gain feedback on how other people see you manage conflict. Gain feedback from family, friends, roommates, co-workers, or teammates. Which styles do they think you use the most? This works well when you’re both doing the exercise, and when there is trust and a sense of psychology safety to be honest and open.
- Putting it all together: Given the 3 sources of information (assessment, reflection and feedback), how would you now rank-order your conflict management styles? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each style? When would it be most appropriate (or most inappropriate) to use one of your common styles? What styles would you like to use more often, less often, or more effectively? If appropriate, set a goal regarding how you will handle a certain type of conflict in the future.
- Role models. Do you know someone who manages conflict particularly well? I’m not talking about someone who ignores conflict or always smooths it over without solving anything. This might be someone who can help find win-win solutions, or someone who works hard to create an environment in which conflict can be safely discussed. Describe some the skills you’ve observed in good conflict managers or role models. Select one skill or behavior you would like to try.
*Note: For this exercise, we will define conflict broadly to include subtle HIDDEN (covert) conflict, OPEN (overt), and Extreme conflict. Covert, or hidden conflict might start when you feel annoyed, insulted, offended, hurt, or you simply don’t agree with the other person. You might choose to ignore the action (avoidance), or pretend that you agree (accommodation), but there is still some underlying or potential conflict. In some cases, you might “think” you are hiding your attitudes well, but emotional reactions often “leak out” in facial expressions, non-verbal behaviors, silence, or other actions. The other party might know you’re upset without knowing why. (Now he or she feels annoyed or offended too.) Open (overt) conflict is when both parties recognize that there is a difference of opinion, disagreement, bad feelings, or offense taken by one or both parties. They might handle it respectfully, using various conflict management strategies. Or the conflict might grow and eventually escalate into aggressive behaviors, a loud argument, a physical fight, silent treatment, or other disruptive and dysfunctional behaviors.
Part 2 Preventing conflict spirals and building emotional control
Many conflicts don’t start over major issues or disagreements, but they begin with small incidents of thoughtlessness, disrespect, offense or defensive communication. A small offense might trigger a negative reaction and a retaliatory response. A series of these reactions can spiral downward and lead to outbursts, aggression or violence if not stopped. See also “the cycle of mistrust.” An otherwise reasonable person might attempt to ignore a series of small offenses, until he reaches “the last straw, and “explodes” leading people to wonder why he overreacted to such a small thing. Everyone has some trigger points or sore spots that bother them more than others (usually these are more emotional than pet peeves).
- Trigger points: What types of actions, behaviors, or situations tend to trigger a negative reaction in you (emotional, angry, defensive, etc.) that might lead to conflict? What types of defensive communication behaviors bother you the most? (See the handout on supportive v defensive communication.) What are your sore spots or triggers?
Examples: A demeaning attitude, insults, anger, whining, bias, sarcasm, competitiveness, bragging, judgmental attitude, a particular tone of voice or facial expression, or a comment about ___.
- Prevent negative conflict spirals. Perspective taking (empathy) exercise
Think about times when you experienced a negative reaction to a trigger.
- How did you interpret the person’s intentions or behaviors?
- What other ways might you interpret those words or behaviors?
For the moment, give the other person the benefit of the doubt and assume they had the best possible intentions. (Or think about when you acted that way innocently.) Make a list of alternative reasons why they might act that way. View the behavior from other perspectives. Think about how you can develop and show empathy for others.
- I felt angry when my co-worker criticized me and told me I was doing it wrong. But… Perhaps he meant to be very helpful and prevent me from making a costly mistake.
- His whining is SO annoying! But… to be fair, it’s possible that he tried nicer ways to get my attention first, but I wasn’t paying attention.
- What a jerk he was to tell that joke. Or…. maybe he was nervous and was just trying to lighten the mood. I guess I’ve said stupid things at times too.
- That customer was totally out of line to yell and blame me for his problem. But… It’s possible he has a good reason to feel frustrated with my company. To him, I’m a representative of the company he’s mad at, so I know I don’t have to take it personally at all.
- Identify some alternative ways to handle it when your sore spots are triggered, or you feel angry, hurt, afraid, or belittled, etc. Identify a number of options and choose the ones that are most constructive (and maintain respect for both of you). Imagine that you are in this situation, and “see” yourself reacting in an appropriate way. Practice imagining your best behavior for these situations, and practice in real life until they become second nature.
- Identify some behaviors of yours that might trigger a negative reaction in other people. These might be in your “blind spot”- things that other people know about you, that you don’t really see. Use the “social mirror” to observe how other people react to your behaviors, comments or jokes. When do you get funny looks or negative non-verbal reactions? Think about comments or feedback you received from friends, family and coworkers. Ask a trusted friend for suggestions.
Examples: You might not realize that your face clearly shows when you are feeling bored, impatient, judgmental, disgusted, negative, angry, etc. You might not realize that certain phrases or jokes make you sound selfish, hateful, bigoted, too competitive, or ignorant of social norms.