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).
Contact Ralph Kilmann
Thomas-Kilmann Instrument: A Reflection on 40 Years
Many mediators have used the TKI to illustrate concepts of avoidance and collaboration. On the 40th anniversary of the Thomas-Kilmann Instrument, Ralph Kilmann reflects on what they've learned.
Do Your Surrounding Systems Support Your Inner Self?
Are your surrounding systems separate from your inner self? I would like to address the observation that we typically define our sense of self as being separate from our surrounding systems. So I ponder: What are the consequences of keeping our sense of self (some integration of ego, soul, and self-worth) separate from our surrounding systems?
The Inherent Conflict Regarding Who Determines Your Self-Worth
Recently, I’ve been having more discussions on the core topic of self-worth: Am I a good or bad person? Am I valuable? Am I loveable? Do I deserve to be happy? And, most importantly, who chooses the answers to these profound questions: You or other people?
Modifying the Underlying Dimensions of the TKI Conflict Model
Since the early 1970s, two dimensions have been used to plot the five conflict modes: Assertiveness and Cooperativeness (my attempts to satisfy my own needs versus my attempts to satisfy the other person's needs, respectively). Occasionally, these two dimensions were modified to Person A and Person B, as just another way of focusing on the needs and concerns of two people engaged in an interpersonal conflict.
The Tangible Technique versus the Fuzzy Technology for Using Assessment Tools
It seems so natural to focus on specific people (with our five senses) rather than give the necessary emphasis to the larger surrounding systems (the big-picture intuition that grasps the context and the process for managing change).
Resolving the Truth Between Two People in Conflict
"There are three truths: My truth, your truth, and what really happened." But if we think of the possibilities for synergy (collaboration) of two people's versions of reality, maybe it would make it easier to realize that some truths are socially constructed anyway...so we might as well negotiate it into something useful and healing.
Looking at E-mail Negotiations with the TKI Conflict Model
There appears to be a rapid increase in the use of e-mail exchanges for resolving all kinds of personal and workplace conflicts. Instead of taking the extra time for phone calls, virtual meetings, or those old-fashioned face-to-face discussions, people are texting or e-mailing their concerns and solutions to one another.
Using Group TKI Profiles for Improving Conflict Management in Organizations
I'd like to share some of the work I've done with applying the TKI in groups in order to improve conflict-handling behavior and thus performance. This work adds some interesting dimensions to the TKI training that is typically done with individuals in a workshop session (not in their intact work groups), one-on-one coaching with clients, or mediation between two people.
Using the TKI Tool for Divorce Mediation
Ralph Kilmann discusses applying the TKI instrument to family and divorce mediations. The key is using the instrument to helping couples from competitive to distributive bargaining.
The Marriage Between Conflict and Change
At a much earlier time in my career, I addressed the disciplines of conflict management and change management as if they were distinct topics. Gradually, however, I began to see the very strong connection—marriage—between these two fields of study: In fact, it's now impossible for me to see or use one approach without the other.
Conflict Management and Political Behavior Across Our Globe
Can the TKI Conflict Model (i.e., the five conflict modes along with the assertiveness, cooperativeness, distributive, integrative, and protective dimensions) shed some (healing) light on the political behavior in the countries throughout the world, especially with regard to elections, the global economy, nuclear programs, military strength, debt reduction, educational and health programs (to name a few challenging conflicts in the political realm)?
The Transition from TKI Assessment to Effective Behavior
The immediate benefit of taking the TKI assessment and reviewing your results (which includes a personalized report with the online version of the assessment) is awareness. You learn which conflict modes you might be using too much, usually out of habit, and which ones you might be using too little—since you’ve not been exposed to the many positive uses of your underutilized modes. Although gaining awareness is the decisive Step 1, these four additional steps must be taken to improve how you actually behave in conflict situations so you and other people will be more satisfied and your organization will be more successful.
An Experiential Exercise to Dramatize the Five Modes
Several decades ago, I developed an experiential exercise for classroom and workshop settings in order to accelerate people’s understanding and internalization of the five modes (Competing, Avoiding, Collaborating, etc.). This articles walks readers through that example, and also provides insights for instructors as to why different parts of the exercise works.
Distinguishing Between Compromising and Collaborating
People often ask me to clarify the difference between compromising and collaborating, especially since these two modes involve both people getting their needs met. In particular, people often use the word compromise to indicate that they have completely resolved the matter at hand: “We achieved a successful compromise!”
Distinguishing Between Accommodating and Avoiding
People often ask me to spell out the difference between accommodating and avoiding. Or, as some say, “Isn’t accommodating also an easy way to avoid, since you can quickly remove yourself from the situation by giving in to the other person? What’s the difference?”
Competing, Accommodating, and Compromising
Competing is assertive and uncooperative: I get my needs met, but you don’t get your needs met. This is in stark contrast to accommodating and comprising.
Collaborating: The Most Complex and Least Understood Mode
Even though collaboration sounds ideal to most people, because it promises a win-win outcome,
it can be used successfully only under the right conditions. There
are more conditions that determine whether the collaborating mode will
achieve its potential than is the case with any other conflict mode.
How to Use (And Not Just Choose) A Conflict Mode
Even if you choose to avoid for the right reasons, what you actually say to people just before you withdraw from the situation does make a difference. Different people handle it in different ways.
Good and Bad Avoiding
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Thomas-Kilmann Instrument, Ralph Kilmann has published a series of articles explaining the TKI and its five methods (Avoiding, Accommodating, Collaborating, Compromising, and Collaborating). This article focuses on two sides of the avoiding method.