Confidence in Resolving Conflict

Posted on February 20th, 2014 by Patricia Viscomi

Confidence in Resolving Conflicts

Having confidence to resolve conflicts is an important part of the process.  There are myriad reasons why you might lack confidence when faced with a conflict:  fear, discomfort, previous negative encounters, lack of skill, knowledge, or experience, etc.  Let’s look at these issues and how they affect your ability to effectively manage conflict.

Recognize the signs of low self-confidence.  When you’re not confident about dealing with conflict, you tend to doubt your abilities, second-guess yourself, and be hesitant about trusting your own judgment.  You also might be pessimistic about a successful outcome which, in turn, gives you an excuse for not engaging in the first place.  Be aware of when these kinds of negative thoughts arise because they often can become a downward spiral, reinforcing your initial belief that you can’t do it.  Replace “I can’t do this,” with “This may be difficult, but I will try to do it.”

Don’t let fear lead to avoidance.  You may be like many people who dislike conflict because you’re afraid of it.  Perhaps your experiences with conflict in the past have not ended well, and so your tendency is to shy away, not engage the other person, or just plain avoid any kind of conversation or confrontation.  Most experts agree that avoiding conflict is one of the worst responses you can have because the possibility of resolution is completely cut off from the start, and, more often than not, the conflict will only get worse, not better.  One strategy to try is to start small and “work your way up” to a conflict with wider implications.  In other words, force yourself to initiate discussion about something small just to get practice for other, more significant conflicts that might be on the horizon.  “Practicing” in this way not only gets you out of your old pattern of avoiding, but it also builds confidence for the future as you begin to experience the positive results of working through a problem more collaboratively.

Prepare in advance.  So much of how a conflict is handled determines the outcome.  When do you choose to talk?  Where is the discussion held?  What words do you use to convey your message?  What tone do you use?  All of these are issues to think about ahead of time so that the conditions surrounding the conversation are conducive for a beneficial result.  Actually practice what you’re going to say either by yourself or, even better, role play the conversation with a trusted friend, coach, or colleague.  Then when you’re in the real conversation, you’re calmer, more relaxed, and better prepared to respond to any number of reactions from the other person.  Again, feeling prepared and in control leads to confidence.

Think through the consequences of not having the conversation.  Although it sometimes seems easier to avoid conflicts, there are all kinds of negative ramifications of not addressing the issue.  If you really analyze these drawbacks, you’ll probably be persuaded to take a different approach.  With non-action, the situation remains stagnant and nothing improves; even worse, it could steadily decline and become even more damaging over time.  Another disadvantage to not addressing the problem head-on is that you can become an easy target for people who are more aggressive or manipulative.  On the Conflict Dynamics Profile®, “Yielding” is considered a Destructive scale because, as with “Avoiding,” it is a response that fails to engage others directly in an effort to resolve conflict.

Keep emotions in check.  A lack of confidence in conflicts often generates strong feelings because your sense of security or need for respect or intimacy is threatened.  Your tendency might be to react very strongly or simply shut down.  It’s important to be in touch with your emotions and be able to notice when you’re getting heated.  Be careful of the words you use, try to get all the facts, and be respectful at all times.  Remember that dealing with emotions in a healthy way can lead to greater understanding and trust.

Develop skills in the conflict arena.  Nothing improves confidence like additional training.  Whether it’s reading a book on communications and practicing on your own or participating in a more formal training program, the more you learn, the more confident you’re going to feel.  “Stretch” yourself by setting goals that are challenging, but achievable.  Seek feedback on an ongoing basis so that you can continue to grow in your proficiency and self-awareness.

Celebrate your successes.  Though painful at times, the little steps you take in addressing conflicts provide a real opportunity for growth.  You will see that facing disagreements can strengthen, not damage, personal and professional relationships.  Recognizing the small achievements along the way helps motivate you to behave similarly the next time.

Conflict Competence

Posted on November 21st, 2013 by Patricia Viscomi

DEFINING CONFLICT COMPETENCE

Conflict competence is the ability to develop and use cognitive, emotional, and behavioral skills that enhance productive outcomes of conflict while reducing the likelihood of escalation or harm.  The results of conflict competence include improved quality of relationships, creative solutions, and lasting agreements for addressing challenges and opportunities in the future. As with all competencies, people can learn ways to improve, change, and develop.

We believe that those with a keen sense of self awareness are well positioned to develop conflict competence. This requires honesty and objectivity.  It requires seeking feedback from others.  We recommend using assessment instruments for a thorough analysis.

It is also helpful to understand how conflict begins and unfolds.  Cognitive understanding of the “mechanics” of conflict can help to demystify the impact of conflict. In addition, preparation for conflict is critical.  In almost all cases, we find that those who are best prepared for conflict have the best outcomes, the fewest issues, and the most satisfying relationships with their conflict partners.

Most importantly, we believe that developing skills, learning mental models, and applying basic principles are the keys to developing conflict competence.   Our model is simple and involves three key steps—cooling down, slowing down, and engaging constructively. We will address the components of the model fully in the pages to follow.  In short though, the model suggests that those who deal well with emotions, are mindful of the ramifications of conflict, and use effective skills during conflict have the best chance of productive outcomes.

Ten Principles of Conflict Competence for Individuals, Teams, and Organizations

Conflict competence applies to individuals, teams and organizations.  It is relevant at work, home, and in community settings.  The following principles capture the key elements of conflict competence and can be used to frame effective training efforts.

  1. Conflict is inevitable and can lead to positive or negative results depending on how it is handled.

When we talk with people, they readily admit that conflict is inevitable.  Their life experience has confirmed that when people interact with one another their different perspectives and needs lead to conflicts. They are keenly aware of the negative aspects of conflict but less so about its potential benefits.

  1. While people generally see conflict as negative and prefer to avoid it, better results can emerge from engaging it constructively.

Research in organizational conflict has identified various types of conflict which lead to different outcomes. Two important types include task conflict which focuses on resolving the issues that stem from differences and relationship conflict that emerges when people are more interested in placing blame than they are solving problems. Task conflict can lead to creative solutions and improved decisions, whereas relationship conflict almost always leads to interpersonal tension and poorer performance. People have more experience with relationship conflict and as a consequence see conflict as a negative to be avoided.  This often leads them to respond ineffectively and guarantees that they experience the dysfunctions that come with that type of conflict.  When they are able to engage conflict effectively though, they are more likely to attain the benefits that can come from task conflict.

  1. In order to overcome reluctance to address conflict, people need to believe it is important to do so—thus recognizing the value of managing conflict effectively is critically important.

Motivation is as important as knowledge in developing conflict competence.  Changing established beliefs and patterns of behavior is difficult and unless people see value in doing so it won’t happen. Helping them understand the benefits that emerge from managing conflict effectively is critical in providing the rationale and impetus to undertake this work.

  1. Individual conflict competence involves developing cognitive, emotional, and behavioral skills that enable one to cool down, slow down and engage conflict constructively.

When faced with conflict, people respond in a variety of ways.  They think about what is happening.  They experience emotional reactions that are influenced by the ways they view and interpret the conflict.  They also take action to address the concerns that the conflict raises.  In order for a person to be able to deal effectively with conflict, they need to be able to improve their cognitive, emotional and behavioral skills so they can cool down, slow down, and engage the matter constructively.

  1. Cognitive skills include developing self-awareness about their current attitudes and responses to conflict and an understanding of its basic dynamics.

As with most leadership skills, self-awareness plays an important role in becoming more effective in dealing with conflict.  This includes an understanding of how people currently view conflict because their attitudes can affect their responses to it.  Self-awareness also involves understanding what triggers a person in the first place as well as how they respond when conflict emerges. This awareness allows them to leverage effective responses and at the same time work on improving areas where they are using ineffective behaviors.  This development work plays out better when people recognize some of the fundamental dynamics of the conflict process.

  1. Emotional skills include understanding one’s emotional responses to conflict, regulating those responses to attain and maintain emotional balance, understanding and managing the emotions of one’s conflict partners, and when necessary slowing down to allow extra time to cool down.

In order to be able to use constructive behavioral responses to conflict, a person first needs to be able to manage his emotional responses.  This allows him to become curious and curiosity is such a key factor in engaging one’s conflict partner constructively.  Conflict is all about emotion and being able to manage one’s emotions provides a foundation from which to choose and use constructive behavioral responses.

  1. Behavioral skills include engaging constructively by understanding others’ perspectives, emotions, and needs; sharing one’s own thoughts, feelings and interests; collaborating to develop creative solutions to issues; and reaching out to get communications restarted when they have stalled.

Considerable research and publishing have been done in the field of conflict and there is considerable agreement about the kinds of behaviors that work well to resolve conflicts.  These include listening to understand how other people see an issue, sharing one’s own perspectives, working together to develop effective solutions to problems and keeping communications going.  When these behaviors can be used, conflict can move in more productive directions. Of course, it can be a challenge to use these behaviors.  If it were simple, people would already handle conflicts better.

  1. Engaging constructively also involves reducing or eliminating the use of destructive behaviors characterized by fight or flight responses to conflict.

One of the reasons that responding constructively can be such a challenge is that people are more likely to default to destructive fight or flight behaviors, either because these are the kinds of responses they have learned to use or because they are upset and turn to reactive behaviors in order to protect themselves.  Reducing the use of these kinds of responses depends in large part on developing and practicing new, more constructive approaches and on regulating emotional reactions to conflict.

  1. In team settings, conflict competence includes creating the right climate to support the use of the cool down, slow down, and engage constructively model among teammates so they can have open and honest discussions of issues.  Creating the right climate includes developing trust and safety, promoting collaboration, and enhancing team emotional intelligence.

In order to manage conflict effectively team members need to be able to discuss issues openly and honestly.  When they can robustly debate issues without turning a task focused conflict into one involving relationship conflict, they can develop better, more creative solutions.  This is not easy to do and requires developing norms that produce the right climate for managing conflict constructively.  This includes changing attitudes about conflict so that it not just something to avoid.  It also means creating a safe environment where team members trust that what they say won’t be used against them.  Working together with team spirit produces collaborative effort that can enable people to give others the benefit of the doubt when conflict emerges.  Managing emotions is important in teams settings as well as in individual contexts because emotions are contagious and if not addressed can spread tension throughout the team.  Team members also need to use constructive behaviors when addressing conflicts in order to keep a solution- oriented focus to their discussions.

  1. In organizational contexts, conflict competence involves creating a culture that supports the cool down, slow down, and engage constructively model.  This includes aligning mission, policies, training programs, performance standards, and reward structures to reinforce the conflict competence model.  It also includes creating integrated conflict management systems to support these cultural changes.

In order to be conflict competent an organization needs for its leaders, managers, supervisors, and employees to be individually conflict competent. At the same time it needs to align its conflict management processes with its mission, values, policies, performance standards, and reward structure in order to reinforce the kind of conflict behaviors it wants its personnel to use with each other and with its vendors and customers. This involves creating systems to reinforce its conflict model and to provide multiple avenues for employees to use to address conflicts, preferably at the lowest possible level at the earliest possible time.

 Individual Conflict Competence Model

Our model of individual conflict competence looks at cognitive, emotional, and behavioral aspects of how people respond to conflict.  Key elements of the model are shown in Figure 1.1.

Figure 1.1      

Cool Down relates to strategies to help regulate emotions so a person can maintain or regain emotional balance before proceeding further.  If you are upset your cognitive faculties are impaired and it is easy to slip into use of destructive behaviors. So a key first step is to make sure that your emotions are managed effectively.  Since emotions can come and go rather quickly, it may be necessary to cool down several times during a conflict.

Slow Down involves developing a strategy for what to do when Cooling Down is not working.  Strong emotions can be challenging, and despite our best efforts there will be times when our efforts to calm down will not be entirely effective. In these cases it is important to have ways of being able to slow things down.  Taking a time out to enable your emotions to calm down is way better that going too far and saying something you will later regret.  These comments that are accompanied by having your foot in your mouth usually escalate the conflict and prove very hard to undo.

Once you have used Cool Down and Slow Down to allow you time to gain a more balanced state, you can then move on to engage the other person using constructive behaviors.

 Engage Constructively

The key behaviors associated with the engage constructively part of the Individual Conflict Competence Model are reaching out, perspective taking/listening for understanding, sharing thoughts and feelings, and collaborating to create solutions.                                                                                                            

Reaching Out is a behavior described in the Conflict Dynamics Profile.  It involves working with the other person either at the very start of conflict to get communications moving or later on to get things back on track.

Perspective Taking and Listening for Understanding involve listening for how the other person sees the situation, using empathy to understand how the other person is feeling, and asking about what they want.  Through this process you can develop new insights about the conflict and help lower tensions.

Sharing Your Thoughts and Feelings involves telling the other person how you see the situation, how you feel about it, and what you want for yourself and the other person.

Collaborate to Create Solutions involves trying to find answers to the issues raised by the conflict that will work for both parties.  It includes reflecting on the merits of alternative solutions, brainstorming with the other person to develop new approaches, and remaining flexible so you can make the best out of whatever solution is devised.

 

What Are Your Hot Buttons?

Posted on November 21st, 2013 by Patricia Viscomi

What Are Your Hot Buttons?

A micro-managing boss, a subordinate who can’t be counted on,  a peer who is totally self-centered … do any of these make you angry?  If so, they may be pushing your “hot buttons.”

Hot buttons are behaviors in others that anger us and can cause us to react destructively. They are at the heart of many conflicts and can add emotional fuel to the fire.

The interesting thing is that people have very different hot buttons. Say that someone on a team acts abrasively. It may upset some teammates and not bother others at all.

Understanding your own hot buttons can help prevent you from being thrown off balance when you encounter someone who pushes them.  You still may not like the other person’s behavior, but you won’t get caught off guard.

The Conflict Dynamics Profile (CDP) assessment instrument measures a set of nine different hot buttons typically encountered in the workplace.  A mini version of the Hot Buttons portion of the CDP is available free of charge at:   http://www.conflictdynamics.org/cdp/hotbuttons/index.php .  It will give you a sense of what behaviors irritate you most.

Hot buttons also give us a glimpse into our values.  When another person’s actions upsets us, it is often because it violates our expectations about how people should behave.  These expectations can arise from early life experiences.  We learn to detect threats to our well being, and our brains constantly scan the environment for them.

When we encounter behaviors that push our buttons, our fight or flight system is engaged.  Emotions build and they can lead to our use of destructive conflict responses.  As we become more aware of our hot buttons, we can also learn to lessen their intensity.  A first step is reflecting on why particular hot buttons are hot for you.

Another step involves considering alternative reasons why someone may behave in a particular way.  An abrasive peer who puts others down may be an ego maniac.  Alternatively, he might be very insecure and uses put-downs to cover up his own insecurity.  The behavior itself may still not be pleasant, but how you view the situation may affect the intensity of your emotional response to it.

By regulating emotional responses, we are better able to make conscious choices to use constructive behaviors when engaging conflict. If you want to handle conflict better, a good start is learning more about your hot buttons.

Giving In to Avoid Conflict

Posted on November 21st, 2013 by Patricia Viscomi

Giving In to Avoid Conflict

                When asked to describe conflict, most people use negative words.  They often indicate that they prefer to avoid dealing with it when possible.  This leads to a particular kind of passive destructive  behavior described in the Conflict Dynamics Profile as Yielding.  Yielding involves giving in to the other person or accommodating them in order not to have to address the conflict directly.  In practice it may sound something like, “Ok, we’ll do it your way” or “Whatever you want – I’ll go along.”

Yielding is described as a destructive behavior for several reasons.  First, the person who yields may get some temporary relief by not having to interact about the conflict. Yet, this often comes at a personal cost –  individuals can get down on themselves for not standing up for what they believe.  If yielding becomes a frequent occurrence, the person can get a reputation as a pushover which presents problems of its own.

Another downside of yielding is that organizations can lose good ideas if people prefer to yield rather than having open, robust debates about important issues.  If someone has a great idea but doesn’t present it because they are afraid that someone else might criticize it, the organization can lose out.

When teams make a habit of yielding, it can lower creativity, decrease the quality of decision making, and impair implementation.  Creativity decreases because the benefits that come from having ideas bounced off one another is lost.  Decision quality is hampered when ideas are inadequately vetted because people shy away from critiquing each other’s views.  Implementation is hurt because people have not felt a part of coming up with a solution.  We once worked with a group that routinely yielded in conflict discussions.  People would nod their assent to a particular solution even when they did not believe in it.  The person putting forth that solution often mistook this signal for honest support and would move forward only to find that the people who nodded yes did not participate in active implementation.

How to Overcome Yielding

People who tend to yield often do so because they are uncomfortable engaging in conflict discussions with other people.  So a first step in moving away from yielding behaviors is to understand what makes one uncomfortable.  This might be a desire not to hurt another’s feelings, not to be hurt by others, or some other factor.  Once a person has a sense of why they yield, it gives them a basis for exploring what they need to do to overcome it.

When people yield on issues that matter to them, in a sense they are discounting themselves and their interests.  In these cases it becomes important to help  individuals consider what they want in various situations and reflect on the legitimacy of caring about or counting their interests.

Helping people develop constructive communication techniques for managing differences can also help them overcome concerns that they will harm others simply by standing up for their own interests.  A person can disagree without being disagreeable, and they can find common solutions that take into account their interests and those of others.

The Trouble with Avoiding Conflict

Posted on November 4th, 2013 by Patricia Viscomi

The Trouble with Avoiding Conflict

         When we ask people how they generally deal with conflict, they almost always that they tend to avoid it.  This is not surprising because most people describe conflict in negative terms, and we try to stay away from things that we do not like.  At the same time when they are asked whether avoidance strategies work, the same people say that they generally do not.  So what to do?

A first step is to understand why we avoid.  As was mentioned our attitudes towards conflict are often negative.  When we ask people why, they respond in a number of ways.  Sometimes they say that conflict is emotionally distressing.  Others indicate that they are concerned about hurting others and disturbing their relationship with the other person.  Some mention that they lack good ways of managing conflict.

When people are concerned about the emotional aspects of conflict, we encourage them to reflect further on it.  What aspects of conflict upset them?  We sometimes have them take the Conflict Dynamics Profile instrument to uncover their conflict hot buttons and the values that underlie them. Some people get angry when challenged but for people who avoid conflict they generally do so because they are afraid.

When fear causes avoidance, we recommend Tim Ursiny’s book, The Coward’s Guide to Conflict: Empowering Solutions for Those Who Would Rather Run Than Fight.  In it Tim provides some excellent approaches to overcoming fears (often irrational) that can arise in conflicts.  Another helpful guide to overcoming the tendency to avoid conflict is Managing Conflict Dynamics: A Practical Guide available from the Center for Conflict Dynamics.

It is understandable that people sometimes avoid conflict because they do not want to hurt others or cause relationship problems.  In the short term they may feel relieved because they do not have to face the other person.  When we ask them if this actually solves their problem, they almost always admit that it does not.  Tensions simmer and eventually the problem comes back – often with a vengeance.

So it a person wants to change their approach and stop avoiding conflict, what can they do?  How can you engage effectively with the other person?  We recommend behaviors described in the Conflict Dynamics Profile as active constructive responses.  These include Reaching Out, Perspective Taking, Expressing Emotions, and Creating Solutions.

Reaching Out provides a way of getting communications restarted.  It is particularly helpful after avoidance has caused interaction to slow down.  A person can reach out by asking the other person it they would be willing to try to work through the issue.  At times it might involve an apology.

Perspective Taking focuses on trying to understand the other person’s viewpoint on the conflict. It involves listening carefully and trying to truly understand the other person’s thoughts and feelings.

Expressing Emotions includes sharing your thoughts and feelings about the conflict with the other person.  It is an authentic expression of how you view the conflict and involves open, honest discussion of how you see the conflict.

Creating Solutions concerns working together with the other person to discover collaborative solutions to your joint problem.  It helps turn adversarial exchanges into mutual problem solving.

These behaviors help improve engagement.  They also involve risk and can be scary.  You might reach out to another person only to be reject.  You might not like hearing what the other person has to say about you. It can be intimating to share your true thoughts and feelings about a conflict.  At the same time, not doing anything – avoiding the conflict – usually causes it to get worse.  If you can use constructive behaviors to engage the other person, you are more likely to come up with better solutions.

There are times though when avoiding still makes sense.  When there are threats of violence associated with the conflict, it may be better to let things cool down or to get outside help before engaging in discussions.  Fortunately, these situations are the exception.  Effective engagement will generally lead to better outcomes.

Conflict Programs in December

Posted on September 30th, 2013 by Patricia Viscomi

Conflict Programs in December

 

The Center is please to host a variety of exciting conflict management programs during the first two weeks of December at Eckerd College.

 

A focal point of the activities is our annual user conference which will take place on Friday December 6th.  The program will focus on best practices in using the Conflict Dynamics Profile and Becoming Conflict Competent course.  There will be presentations by Center staff, our customers, and time to practice honing your skills with colleagues.  The cost for the day is $75.

 

Earlier that week on December 2, 3, and 4, we will be hosting a training session by the Mediation Training Institute International.  This program will focus on workplace mediation techniques developed by Dr. Dan Dana and will include his programs on Manager as Mediator and Self as Mediator.  Special prices will be available for people attending our user conference later in the week.  For details on the program or to register, contact Patty Viscomi at 727-864-8972.

 

The week after the conference will feature a workshop on Conflict Coaching by world renowned conflict coach, Cinnie Noble.  The program explores Cinnie’s powerful model of coaching individuals about dealing with specific disputes and improving their general conflict management skills.  It incorporates presentations and practice opportunities.  The program will run from December 9-12 and the cost is $1200.  For more information or to register for the workshop, please contact, Laureen McNeill at: Phone: (416) 686-4247; Toll free: 1-866-335-6466; Email: cinnie@cinergycoaching.com.

The last day of the workshops will be a CDP certification program.  It will take place on December 13.  People who have attended any of the other workshops will receive a 75% discount on the CDP program. For details or to register, contact Patty Viscomi at 727-864-8972.

Using the CDP 360

Posted on August 29th, 2013 by Patricia Viscomi

Using the CDP-360

The first Conflict Dynamics Profile (CDP) that came out was the 360 degree version in 1999. It started as a paper and pencil assessment and soon added an online format.  In the mid- 2000’s a self-assessment version of the instrument, the CDP-Individual or CDP-I, was released.

A number of people have asked us for advice about when to use the CDP-360 as opposed to the CDP-I. This is affected by the nature of each version of the instrument and the contexts in which they are being used.  The CDP-360 provides feedback from a person’s boss, peers, and direct reports to supplement the individuals own perceptions.  The CDP-I uses only the individuals own perceptions.

In cases where feedback from other people would be helpful, the CDP-360 is the correct instrument.  This can be particularly valuable when dealing with managers and supervisors whose responses can affect many people. Helping them view how they are perceived by others can allow them to be aware of gaps between their intentions and their impact on others.

We believe it is more helpful if the CDP-360 can be used in both training and coaching contexts where the individual is acquiring new skills that they will put into action in the future.  It can still be helpful once people have gotten into trouble with conflict and need to recover from it, but as the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

The CDP-360 typically is used with leaders, managers, high potentials, and senior teams.  It is filled out by the individual in questions plus up to 30 other raters.  Each person receives a 21 page report and a 114 page development guide.  The CDP-360 costs $195 per instrument with discounts for bulk purchases.

We want to offer you a discount to try out the CDP-360.  If you purchase during September of this year, we will provide you with a price of $155 for the first 25 CDP-360s that you buy.  If you have any questions about the offer, please call us at 888-359-9906.

Conflict In The Workplace – How Coaching And The Conflict Dynamics Profile Can Make A Difference

Posted on July 22nd, 2013 by Patricia Viscomi

Recently, my physical therapist asked me what I do and after I described my work with executives and teams, he asked, “how do you avoid conflict?’  It struck me how the knee jerk reaction from most people has to do with avoiding conflict.  There lies the great paradox of seeing conflict not as something to avoid but as an opportunity to deepen a relationship.

What typical characteristics come to mind when you think about leaders in the workplace?  Confidence, aggressiveness, the ability to set high expectations, and to build a team, is among the critical characteristics of successful leaders.  Often it’s these same characteristics that set the stage for conflict to take place in a work setting. There’s a fine line that can define effectiveness.  The way these behaviors are perceived by others is what ultimately distinguishes an effective leader from a corporate bully.   Awareness of the impact one’s behavior has on others is the key to success in the corporate world.

Two strategies underscore a coaching initiative.   First, no one changes without new awareness.  Being aware of ourselves and our ability to read and respond adeptly, to meet challenges that come our way, requires a keen self-awareness of our default tendencies.   This self-awareness allows us to respond mindfully to the needs before us, rather than out of habit.

Secondly, it’s developing awareness of the situation.  It’s helpful to think of adjusting one’s strengths like the volume control on a radio.  The trick is to get the setting just right for the situation.  Knowing how much passion to put into our communication, how seriously to stress a concern, how deep to get into the details,  how fast to drive an initiative -  these all require a deft touch – equal parts of knowing your strengths and knowing your audience.  Coaching provides an experience to learn those skills and develop conflict competence and is a core skill passed on from a coach to a leader who learns how to coach subordinates.

One way to quickly identify the challenges and people’s perception of how effective people are in difficult situations, is by using a 360 multi-rater survey. Having used the Conflict Dynamics Profile (CDP 360) for more than a decade, I have my clients use the CDP 360 survey to recognize and address challenging issues, to engage constructively, regulate self-control, delay a response –  that is, choose constructive responses, this is never easy under stressful situations.   Clients are often surprised by the results of their survey,  how they think and how others see them in this comprehensive survey. The CDP survey provides the coach and the client, a process to help the manager close the gap between self-perception and others’ perception, with new awareness of what gets in the way of effectively practicing those attributes mentioned earlier, and create and develop an action plan to practice new ways of dealing with conflict.  I find this the best way to mitigate a manager’s “under the hood” conflict situations and tune down (or up) the earlier learned habits that limit effectiveness and productivity and to learn and practice conflict competence.

Joe Tomaselli is an executive coach and team development specialist and is the Managing Principal of Exelligence LLC in New York. 

Constructive Conflict

Posted on July 22nd, 2013 by Patricia Viscomi

The model underlying the Conflict Dynamics Profile instrument suggests that people use a variety of behavioral responses to conflict.  Some of these are characterized as constructive and some as destructive.  The constructive behaviors are ones that tend to help lessen tension and resolve conflict.  They are further divided by whether they are active or passive in nature.  Active constructive behaviors involve overt responses.  These include four behaviors: Perspective Taking, Creating Solutions, Expressing Emotions, and Reaching Out.

Perspective Taking concerns trying to view the conflict from the other person’s perspective sometimes referred to as standing in their shoes.  This can be helpful by drawing down tension and helping you learn more about how and why someone sees something different from you.

Creating Solutions involves brainstorming with the other person to come up with possible solutions to a problem.  When used effectively it helps change a conflict from an adversarial struggle to a collaborative problem solving exercise.

Expressing Emotions includes sharing your thoughts and feelings about the conflict with the other person.  This can be challenging for people because they may feel vulnerable about expressing their feelings and because many organizational cultures don’t support such sharing.  It is important though because repressed feelings often fester and eventually come out in destructive manners.

Reaching Out deals with working to start or keep communications going during conflicts.  When we ask people whether they talk more or less with those with whom they are having conflict, the usual answer is less.  When people talk less, conflict usually goes unresolved.  So Reaching Out can be a very helpful behavior to use.

We emphasize working with clients on improving their active constructive behaviors because our research has shown that these responses are closely associated with being seen as an effective leader.   In order to help you work with your clients, we would like to offer you a a complementary electronic copy of our CDP Trainers Toolkit which contains exercises for practicing and refining the CDP active constructive behaviors.  To receive your copy, please contact Peggy Albury at 888-359-9906.

Demeaning Others

Posted on July 17th, 2013 by Patricia Viscomi

Demeaning Others – An Active Destructive Behavior


                Have you ever been in a meeting when all of a sudden someone says something that has an edge to it that is directed towards you or another person?  It might not be something that is said – perhaps it is a gesture, like someone rolling their eyes at something you said or laughing at someone else’s argument.  Most people have experienced these kinds of behaviors, and it can make one feel very uncomfortable. In the Conflict Dynamics Profile (CDP) model, this type of behavior is called Demeaning Others.

Why Do People Act in Demeaning Ways

It is interesting that many people are not aware that they are behaving in a way that dismisses or diminishes someone else.  While there are certainly cases where people purposely put someone else down (often in an attempt to boost themselves), it is just as likely that people do not realize they are acting in this way.  Sometimes they will say something negative and only become aware of its toxic quality after they have spoken.

Often these demeaning behaviors arise from suppressed emotions.  A person will become upset about some issue and instead of sharing those feelings with the person with whom they are having the conflict they decide to keep the emotions to themselves. Rarely do the emotions go away just because the person is holding them inside.  The emotions tend to fester and grow over time.  Eventually, they leak out as demeaning behaviors.  Since the emotions can fester for some time, there is usually a period between the initial incident that provokes the emotion and the display of demeaning behaviors.  This make it more difficult and confusing for the person who is on the receiving end of these behaviors.

How to Reduce the Use of Demeaning Behaviors

Since the demeaning behaviors are often driven by underlying negative emotions that have simmered for some time, learning to recognize and address those emotions provides a key strategy for reducing demeaning behaviors.

Being aware of one’s emotional state is a key component of emotional intelligence.  The CDP helps people with this by helping them identify and explore their Hot Buttons.  These are typically behaviors of others that when encountered irritate or upset us.  By recognizing our Hot Buttons, we are less likely to be caught off guard when someone behaves in a way that we are aware upsets us.  This early warning measure allows us to be more aware when we are triggered so we can take steps to keep the emotions from getting out of control.

Once aware of the onset of emotions, a person can then use cooling techniques like centering or cognitive reappraisal to lower the intensity of those emotions.  They can also learn to use the CDP active constructive behavior of Expressing Emotions to share the way they are feeling with the other person.  By sharing how they feel with the other person, they escape the trap of suppressing the emotions which leads to them festering and eventually coming out in destructive ways. People are sometimes reluctant to express their emotions to another for fear of looking weak or perhaps of escalating the conflict.  By using specific techniques like the Situation, Behavior, and Impact (SBI) model used at theCenterofCreative Leadershipthese problems can be overcome.

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