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Leaders and Conflict Competence

Posted on March 23rd, 2016 by Matt Dreger

Leaders and Conflict Competence

by Craig Runde, Director of the Center for Conflict Management

While it may be a critical competency, leaders are no more comfortable or competent in dealing with conflict than anyone else. This may be one reason why leaders rank it as the top area for personal development. (Larcker, Miles, Tayan, and Gutman, 2013)

To manage conflict effectively, leaders need to be able to improve their self-awareness of how they currently manage conflict, recognize the importance of dealing with conflict constructively, learn how to regulate their emotions in conflicts settings, respond to conflict using constructive communications behaviors, and develop norms for their teams and organizations to use when addressing conflict.

The elements of conflict competence are not innate; they have to be developed. Our evolutionary heritage predisposes us to fight or flight survival responses to conflict. These instinctive reactions helped keep us alive when conflicts were matters of life and death. Yet, these same responses cause problems when our conflicts involved the ordinary disagreements between interdependent people in modern organizational settings. We need to learn and practice new ways of dealing with non-life threatening conflicts, the ones we face all the time at work.

Self-awareness can be honed by asking for feedback from colleagues or through the use of assessment instruments. In either case, it is helpful to recognize the behavior patterns that people see you using during conflicts. For example, how often do you try to listen during conflict in order to understand the other person? Alternatively, do you tend to get angry and lash out against the other person? Recognizing your existing behavior patterns helps you get a better sense about which ones can serve you well and which ones can complicate your efforts to resolve disagreements.

It is also helpful to reflect on what types of situations or behaviors in others tend to irritate you and put you at risk of responding in ineffective manners. Understanding your personal hot buttons helps prevent getting caught off guard and allows you to develop strategies for managing these triggers before they cause you to get angry in the first place.

Communication skills are typically learned in training programs. Enhancing your ability to listen carefully to others, share your own thoughts and feelings, and collaborate to create solutions to conflicts are critical skills covered in such programs. These skills can replace less effective ones like avoiding the other persons or retaliating against them. Once the skills are learned, they need to be sustained and improved by practicing using realistic simulations.

Going beyond self-improvement, leaders need to practice mentoring and coaching conflict management skills in others. They also need to help create a culture that supports constructive engagement when conflicts emerge.

The mission of the Center is to help leaders and others improve their conflict skills and competence through the use of assessment instruments and skill development courses.

1. Larcker, D., Miles, S., Tayan, B., and Gutman, M., 2013 Executive Coaching Survey, The Miles Group and Stanford University. August, 2013. (Download at:

Helping Managers Master Their Hot Buttons

Posted on March 23rd, 2016 by Matt Dreger

Practice Tips from the Director
Helping Managers Master Their Hot Buttons

by Craig Runde, Director of the Center for Conflict Management


Managers are susceptible to getting upset in conflicts situations just like everyone else. In other words, managers can have their hot buttons pushed. When their hot buttons are triggered by an event or by someone else’s behaviors, they become more prone to acting out in counterproductive ways. If they respond destructively, it can prolong conflicts. Research from the Center also suggests that such responses can cause them to be viewed less favorably by their bosses.

Craig Runde, Director of the Center for Conflict Dynamics

It is important for managers to understand their hot button profiles in order to become more aware of what triggers them in the first place. Doing this helps lessen their chances of losing their cool and acting out in ways that escalate a conflict. The Conflict Dynamics Profile® (CDP) provides an in-depth measure of classic workplace hot button behaviors such as untrustworthy, unreliable, hostile, and abrasive. After recognizing their own hot buttons, managers can use CDP workbooks and coaching assistance to develop strategies to lessen the intensity of these hot buttons. Managers can also develop emotional regulation techniques to regain composure more quickly.

Developing mastery over hot buttons can help managers who are involved in their own conflicts. It can also be helpful when they are using the Manager as Mediator (MAM) techniques taught by the Center’s Mediation Training Institute. In the MAM process, managers bring together employees who are experiencing a conflict which is causing a business problem. Managers meet with the employees in separate preliminary meetings and then together in a mediation session where the employees talk through the issue until they find a resolution to the business problem. In the preliminary meetings and in the mediation session, it is possible for the employees to do or say things that might push one or more of the manager's hot buttons.

In order for managers to serve as an effective mediator they need to be able to maintain their composure so that they can maintain a neutral presence. Managers must not be goaded into taking sides or jumping in to solve the problem themselves. As a consequence, recognizing and regulating their hot buttons is an important skill for managers.

Promoting Your Practice—a Practitioner’s Perspective

Posted on March 23rd, 2016 by Matt Dreger

Promoting Your Practice—a Practitioner’s Perspective

Insight by Mark Rosenberg, CDP Master Practitioner

Our certified users of both the Conflict Dynamics Profile® (CDP) and Mediation Training Institute (MTI) programs have a lot of valuable insight to provide to prospective clients. Improving self-awareness and developing conflict management and resolution skills can change people’s lives and improve the productivity of organizations.

Before these positive results occur, you have to pique people’s interest in what you have to offer. A first step is finding out what is important to your prospective clients. Check their websites and review their annual reports to see what their key issues are. If they are concerned about improving productivity, you can position your approach around how improved conflict management skills enhance productivity. You can use MTI’s cost of conflict calculator to help with the productivity analysis. If your clients are concerned about safety issues, you can focus on how resolving conflict improves communications that can help identify problems. In any event, it is important to address issues that are important to your prospective clients.

Mark Rosenberg, CDP Master Trainer

You also need to be able to demonstrate what you can do to help address your clients’ issues. One way to do this is by providing them with an example of your work. CDP master trainer, Mark Rosenberg, has developed and delivered a series of short programs he delivers to prospective clients in Australia. These programs showcase a number of the kind of coaching and training skills that Mark can bring to a client engagement. He also enables participants to take the CDP Individual assessment so they can get a personal experience of the powerful insights that the instrument can bring.

Mark picks centrally located venues in the cities where he holds his programs. He invites senior level HR personnel from prospective client organizations. Mark does not charge for the program itself which is billed as an opportunity to learn about new ways of managing challenging issues. He then follows up with attendees to explore possible next steps with them. The programs have led to a number of excellent client engagements, and Mark will be continuing them going forward.

We would be happy to talk to you about ways you might be able to promote your practice. We have talked with many CDP and MTI certified users and can share other approaches that may be helpful to you.

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MTI at the Southern California Mediation Association Conference

Posted on January 27th, 2016 by Craig Runde

MTI at the Southern California Mediation Association Conference

By Craig Runde, Director of the Center for Conflict Dynamics

CCD & MTI had the opportunity to present and exhibit at the 2015 Southern California Mediation Association (SCMA) Conference at Pepperdine Law School on November 6th.   CCD & MTI director Craig Runde teamed up with former MTI training director Dr. Debra Dupree to present to attendees on How Conflict Competence and Emotional Intelligence Affects Workplace Mediators.

Afterwards participants were able to stop by the MTI exhibit to discuss training options.

  • Seasoned mediators were interested in MTI’s train-the-trainer program which would allow them to expand their portfolio of services to include training clients how to deal with conflicts more effectively by themselves.

  • Newer mediators also showed interest in MTI’s mediation certification program that would enable them to expand their practice to include workplace mediation.

Thank you again to the SCMA for the opportunity to present!

We are always looking for the opportunity to present at HR Professional, Coaching, and other relevant organizations on conflict management and mediation.  If you are part of a professional organization that may be interested, please send an email to [email protected].

What’s the difference between Empathy and Sympathy, and why has Sympathy got such a bad name?

Posted on January 27th, 2016 by Sarah Sherry

What’s the difference between Empathy and Sympathy, and why has Sympathy got such a bad name?

By John Ford, founder of the HR Mediation Academy, originally posted at 


Have you ever wondered about the difference between empathy and sympathy?

And if you have, why sympathy has got such a bad name?

I addressed these very questions in the recent pilot of my online course that focused on Challenging Workplace Relationships, but was prompted to write this after watching a short online video narrated by Dr. Brené Brown.

In the video Dr Brown says that empathy fuels connection and sympathy drives disconnection. To empathize, she says, we must "internalize the feelings of another."

In the examples she gives she suggests that we sympathize when we avoid acknowledging others difficult feelings and also when we minimize the experience of another, such as when we ‘silver-line’ with expressions like, “at least you have a job,” after hearing that the person was demoted.

I agree that these last two practices (avoidance and minimizing) are not empathetic, but I am not sure that they are what sympathy is about. Or indeed the real reasons for sympathy’s bad name.

As is often the case, words have numerous meanings. Sympathy’s Latin roots point to "similar feelings" (sympathia and pathos).

However, the primary sense in most modern dictionaries suggest that sympathy means “pity or sorrow for someone’s misfortune.”

Sympathy as pity is dis-empowering and fuels disconnection. Comments like “I don’t want your sympathy” confirm this.

We want to be allowed to feel our feelings, rather than be rescued by the sympathizer who can never actually feel for us!

I agree that this sense is unfortunate and I suspect a reason for sympathy’s bad name.

But sympathy can also refer to the original Latin meaning and our capacity to recognize a common feeling. We sense that the other person may be feeling something similar to what we have previously experienced and sympathize.
As the listener, if we express our sympathy we may say “I was also ‘gutted’ when my team lost!”

The apparent danger is that unless we are careful we shift the focus away from the other. Now it’s about me and my team!

That’s another reason for its bad name.

So what then is empathy, and how is it different?

Empathy is our capacity to sense and understand what another is feeling from their – nor our – point of view.

This to me is vital. The focus is on them and how they make sense of their feelings.

So while I listen to my English friend bemoan their loss in the rugby world cup, I can sympathize as suggested above as I know what it feels like to lose.

But I can also empathize.

And when I do the shift is apparent. “I imagine you were gutted when your team lost! Especially as hosts. Must really hurt!”

As is suggested by Paul Bellet and Michael Maloney, our perspective becomes superfluous, certainly secondary to that of the speaker:

“Empathy is the capacity to understand what another person is experiencing from within the other person's frame of reference, i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another's shoes.”

At best my frame of reference and knowledge of rugby can help me to understand what my friend is feeling (sympathy), but empathy lies in my ultimate ability to demonstrate to my friend that I understand him and his woes.

Empathy builds connection, and is based on authentic attention to the other.

Sympathy can move us toward, but is not the same as empathy.

In the same way that avoidance and minimization are neither sympathetic nor empathetic.

Much ado about nothing?

Not so sure. Words matter.

Sympathy has its place, but there are dangers.

Which is why for life’s challenges,

I prefer empathy!




About the Author:

John Ford is the author of Peace at Work and founder of the HR Mediation Academy. He mediates, trains, and consults to organizations that have accepted the inevitability of conflict and are seeking to approach it with greater clarity and confidence. He was the managing editor of from 2000 to 2011, and is a past president of the Association for Dispute Resolution of Northern California. More about John Ford:

Book Review: Hold on to Yourself Through Tough Conversations

Posted on January 27th, 2016 by Craig Runde

Book Review: Hold on to Yourself Through Tough Conversations

By Craig Runde, Director of the Center for Conflict Dynamics

The Center was fortunate to get an early look at Julia Menard and Judy Zehr’s new book, Hold on to Yourself Through Tough Conversations, which comes out in early February from Balboa Press.  It is a wonderful new offering that helps explain and provide pathways for addressing the emotional challenges we all face in conflict settings. The book draws from a multitude of rich and diverse sources including Jon Kabat Zinn (mindfulness), Laurel Mellin (emotional brain training), Daniel Goleman (emotional intelligence), Daniel Siegel (interpersonal biology), John Gottman (couples communications), Marshall Rosenberg (nonviolent communications), and others.  It provides an in-depth but very readable look at the underpinnings of our neurobiological responses to conflict.  Perhaps more importantly, their book shares practical approaches for being able to recognize and manage these emotional responses to help you “hold on to yourself” and deal with the conflicts in more balanced and effective manner. We strongly recommend it to you.

If you have additional questions about the book you can address them to Julia Menard at

Promoting Your Practice

Posted on January 22nd, 2016 by Craig Runde

Promoting Your Practice

By Craig Runde, Director of the Center for Conflict Dynamics and Mediation Training Institute

We covered a lot of great topics at the 2015 Practitioner Conference. One of our most popular sessions was the table talk entitled “Marketing your Conflict Practice” hosted by Matt Dreger, the Director of Digital Marketing for the Division of Executive and Continuing Education, and Dorie Michalik, the Assistant Director of Product Management for the Center for Conflict Dynamics and Mediation Training Institute. At these sessions, seasoned practitioners shared their thoughts with the group, and the CCD staff gained valuable insight into the support our certified partners need. A large list of ideas emerged from these session, take a look at some of the most mentioned feedback and suggestions.

Outline Industry-Specific Solutions

Many of our practitioners work within specific industries such as health care, corrections, and education, and they suggested the need for more industry-specific examples and materials to better communicate with these segments regarding the CDP assessment and MTI trainings. Ideas included industry-specific case studies, blogs, presentation templates and webinars. The CCD team has begun to develop a number of these industry-specific case studies, and we will continue to add to this throughout the year. Here is a recent case study in partnership with the University of Colorado. (Link to the case study)

Improve Your Visibility

Most practitioners who identified themselves as having a successful practice mentioned their willingness to network. Word of mouth was still a strong avenue for driving new opportunities. Joining local civic and trade organizations provides practitioners with the ability to network and build relationships.

One of the areas discussed the most was how to leverage your website, social media, and blog posts as a means of communicating and generating opportunities for your business. Research indicates that a majority of people conduct research online about an organization long before they contact them. Most agreed that having a strong digital presence is an important foundation for your business or practice. Here were some ideas discussed in the session on how to improve your digital presence on your own and in partnership with the CCD.

  • Utilize MTI’s “Cost of Conflict” calculator and CDP’s “Hot Buttons” test as introductory tools with prospective clients.

  • By Blogging, you are offering your own perspective on conflict and current topics. This provides an opportunity to share your knowledge, as well as improve the results of your website in search results.

  • Keeping your website current with updated content and improving the engagement with visitors can be accomplished today through many turn-key website platforms including WordPress, Wix, and Weebly.

Additional CCD Team Support

There was a lot of discussion around opportunities we have as partners with our practitioners to enhance their experience with the CCD.

  • Offer brochures and presentation templates that can be branded with a certified practitioner’s information or an organization's logo for use with client proposals.

  • Provide additional consultation by the CCD team with recently certified practitioners to assist with the utilization of the CDP assessment and MTI training materials in their role.

  • Refresh the MTI and CDP training and coaching videos utilized by practitioners in their programs.


These were all excellent ideas and the CCD team will be expanding upon these throughout the year. A survey will also be distributed electronically in the near future to all certified practitioners to further assist us in identifying the type of services our practitioners need.

Helping Managers Learn How to Wait

Posted on December 15th, 2015 by Craig Runde

Helping Managers Learn How to Wait

By Craig Runde, Director of the Center for Conflict Dynamics and Mediation Training Institute

In MTI’s Manager-as-Mediator course, managers have three tasks to accomplish in the three-way meeting with their employees.  Those tasks are:

  1. Keep disputants engaged in the Essential Process (by preventing violations of the Cardinal Rules)
  2. Support Conciliatory Gestures, and
  3. Wait! (remember the abbreviation W.A.I.T. = “Why Am I Talking”)

While each of these steps is conceptually straightforward, they can each be challenging to perform. In many cases, the most difficult one for managers is the last one.  It is simple – as long as the parties are engaged in face to face talking about the problem and there are no conciliatory gestures that are unacknowledged, the manager stays quiet.  Although it is simple to understand, it is particularly difficult for managers to do.

Managers are usually very effective problem solvers.  They may be better at it than the employees who are in conflict.  The managers may see solutions to the problem that seem obvious.  They will want to wrap things up quickly so everyone can go back to work.  As time goes it becomes more difficult for them to stay uninvolved.

Yet, this is exactly what is needed.  If they have chosen to use managerial mediation as a method for solving the business problem caused by the employees’ conflict, the managers need to let the employees solve the problem.  The employees, in turn, will have to make the trek up Conflict Mountain in order to reach the Breakthrough that will lead to a resolution of the problem.  The trek up the mountain takes time and can seem frustrating to both the employees and especially the manager.

At the same time, allowing the employees to work through the process provides two helpful outcomes in addition to resolving the business problem.  On the one hand it allows the employees to work through their frustrations and lessen the negative emotions they have been harboring.  It also allows them to get used to using a process that can help them work through future conflicts by themselves, so they don’t have to involve the manager in every future issue.  In the long run both of these outcomes will save the manager time and grief.

So how to help the manager remember the value of being patient and refraining from getting involved when they don’t need to be?


The first step is to remind the manager that they don’t have to choose managerial mediation in the first place.  If they feel like making the decision and telling the employees what to do to resolve the business problem, they can do so.  If they think the issue requires them to discipline someone, they can do that as well.  If, however, they believe the situation is the place to use managerial mediation, and they decide to use it, then they need to wait in order for the process to work.  In addition, it is helpful to remind the manager about the positive collateral outcomes (reducing tensions and improving employees’ ability to manage future conflicts) that result from using managerial mediation properly.  And using it properly means being willing to WAIT!

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New and Exciting Changes for 2016!

Posted on December 15th, 2015 by Craig Runde

New and Exciting Changes for 2016!

Announcing our new Center for Conflict Dynamics (CDP) and Mediation Training Institute (MTI) newsletter in January 2016.

This revised newsletter will become an all-encompassing resource for all of our Certified Practitioners.  Articles will include information pertinent to both the CDP and MTI consultant.  Look for our updated format.

Shipping and Fulfillment

To better serve our practitioners, we have moved our shipping to a fulfillment center, effective January 1, 2016.  Please note: new CDP and MTI Shipments will be made from Madison, WI 53704.  When your are placing orders, please plan accordingly for the change in shipping origin as transit times may be different.

New CDP Refresher Course

For CDP Certified Consultants who have been previously certified—both active and inactive members of the CDP network are eligible to refresh.  Anyone who has been previously certified and has not used the CDP since their certification is required to refresh.  Any consultant who has not used the CDP in the last 12 months is encouraged to participate in a refresher course.  As part of your refresher course, you will receive the latest certification materials.  This course will reinforce your previous CDP knowledge and skills and help you to maintain consistent performance in feedback sessions.  The refresher course will include a teleconference with the Center’s director, Craig Runde, and a 15% discount on your first order placed within 30 days of completing the refresher.  The cost of the refresher course is $295.

Trends in Conflict Research and the CDP Model

Posted on December 15th, 2015 by Craig Runde

Trends in Conflict Research and the CDP Model

By Craig Runde, Director of the Center for Conflict Dynamics

In the late 1990’s, when the Conflict Dynamics Profile was originally developed, organizational research in conflict had begun to focus on the concept of conflict types. Three main types were described: task conflict which involved differences over substantive issues, process conflict which dealt with how to organize various functions, and relationship conflict which focused on interpersonal problems. At first it was thought that task conflict could lead to enhanced productivity, improved creativity, and better decision making. Relationship conflict and to a lesser extent process conflict were seen as producing negative outcomes – both in terms of productivity and morale.

In 2003, an important meta-analysis challenged the idea that task conflict was associated with positive outcomes. (1) The study found that task conflict was negatively correlated with productivity and led to efforts to determine under what conditions task conflict could have positive results. A number of such conditions were identified including high trust, moderate level of conflict, and more recently the importance of how people behave during conflict. (2)

The research about conflict type continued to run into conflicting (no pun intended) results though. In 2015 a new article by Weingart and colleagues calls for a new approach to organizational conflict research. (3) They recommend moving away from conflict type as the main focus of study. Instead, they suggest focus on the concept of “conflict expression,” including how direct people are in expressing differences and the intensity with which they state their opposition to one another. This would cause research to move more in the direction of the CDP’s behavioral model, which is based on the premise that how people respond when faced with conflict in the workplace affects its outcome. When people are able to use constructive behaviors they are able to resolve problems caused by the conflict and achieve the benefits that had originally been postulated for task conflict. On the other hand, if people respond with destructive “fight or flight” behaviors, conflict will tend to be escalated and prolonged.

  1. De Dreu, C. and Weingart, L., “Task Versus Relationship Conflict, Team Performance, and Team Member Satisfaction: A Meta-Analysis.” Journal of Applied Psychology. 2003, 88(4), 741-49.
  2. DeChurch, L., Mesmer-Magnus, J. and Doty, D. “Moving beyond relationship and task conflict: the role of conflict management.” Journal of Applied Psychology. 2013, 98(4), 559, 578.
  3. Weingart, L., Behfar, K., Bendersky, C., Todorova, G., and Jehn, K., “The Directness and Oppositional Intensity of Conflict Expression”, Academy of Manage Review. 2015, 40(2), 235-262.

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