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Step 2 is sharing your TKI results in a small group (family members or work associates) and hearing what others have to say about their results as well as how they experience your behavior in conflict situations. So long as the discussion remains supportive and is backed by a healthy culture, you will gain additional awareness as well as receive specific feedback about how you use one or more modes in different situations.
Step 3 is to learn the key attributes of a conflict situation that determine which modes work best under which conditions. As I’ve alluded to earlier, this step is learning to assess a situation in these terms: (a) the level of stress (overwhelming or stimulating); (b) the complexity of the conflict (one-dimensional or multidimensional); (c) the relative importance of the conflict to each person (high/low, equal/different); (d) the available time to discuss the conflict (very little, moderate, or much); (e) the level of trust among the relevant persons (high, medium, or low); (f) the quality of speaking and listening skills (supportive/active behavior versus behavior that produces defensiveness); (g) the group or organizational culture (protective and political versus open and honest); and (h) the importance of the relationship (high, medium, or low). Through a mini-lecture, group discussion, and practice, people can easily learn to read a conflict situation in order to choose which mode to use at first and how to then switch from one mode to another as the situation changes.
Step 4 is to practice, practice, practice using each mode effectively. If you choose to avoid, how do you do that in a manner that respects and honors the other people in the situation? If you choose to compete, how do you get your way in a manner that engenders trust, respect, and a supportive culture (assuming you want those relationships to last)? How do you compromise so the door stays open for collaboration in the future, especially if the topic becomes more important to both of you? As I emphasized before, it’s one thing to know how to choose the theoretically best mode in a given situation, but it’s quite another to enact it effectively, efficiently, and with dignity. Typically, role-playing a number of conflict situations and getting feedback from others (in a supportive group) will help you learn how to use each mode to its full potential.
Step 5 is to keep improving how you read the key attributes of a conflict situation and how you choose and enact different conflict modes, and to learn how you can engender more trust and supportive communication in both your personal life and work life.
Ralph H. Kilmann, Ph.D., is CEO and Senior Consultant at Kilmann Diagnostics in Newport Coast, California. Formerly, he was the George H. Love Professor of Organization and Management at the Katz School of Business, University of Pittsburgh—which was his professional home for thirty years. He earned both his B.S. and M.S. degrees in industrial administration from Carnegie Mellon University (1970) and a Ph.D. degree in management from the University of California, Los Angeles (1972).
Ralph is an internationally recognized authority on systems change. He has consulted for numerous corporations throughout the United States and Europe, including AT&T, Kodak, IBM, Ford, General Electric, Lockheed, Olivetti, Philips, TRW, Wolseley, and Xerox. He has also consulted for numerous health-care, financial, and government organizations, including the U.S. Bureau of the Census and the Office of the President. His professional biography is profiled in Who's Who in America and Who's Who in the World.
Ralph has published more than twenty books and one hundred articles on such subjects as conflict management, organizational design, problem management, change management, and quantum organizations. He is the developer of the MAPS Design® Technology and coauthor of several diagnostic instruments, including the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument and theKilmann-Saxton Culture-Gap® Survey.
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