Understanding Why We Do What We Do

Does anyone remember Show-and-Tell in elementary school? As little kindergarteners we would all sit around in a tight circle and the teacher would point to an anxious student and ask them to share with their friends what they had brought from home to discuss. Once, my friend, Billy Casey got special permission to bring in his new puppy, Duke, and we all were allowed to gently take turns patting Duke with two fingers. Our teacher, Mrs. Conrad, always made this a fun way to learn a little bit more about each other. Today I want us to imagine we are in our own type of Show-and-Tell and it’s my turn to share. And although I can’t compete with a puppy, I do have a new concept that I think is quite intriguing and hopefully will give you a fresh tool for understanding why conflict occurs and how to appropriately respond to it.  So, let’s get started!

 Today I want to introduce you to the Conflict Dynamic Profile. I recently learned about this model in a two-day online training which focused on teaching people to understand their tendencies while in conflict. The theory is that if we are aware of how we naturally respond to certain types of engagements, such as conflict, we can be more prepared to engage in a productive manner. For example, while some people need to openly express feelings, others need time to process thoughts before responding. Some people are not deeply affected by hostile behaviors, which might help them individually, but they now know they need to spend more time focusing on this trait in order to create a safe working environment for their team or study group.  Interesting, right?

Conflict Dynamic Profile Ⓡ, developed at Eckerd College, classifies numerous behaviors for responding to conflict into four distinct categories, two categories which are viewed as constructive when dealing with conflict and the other two described as destructive which leads towards more conflict. By understanding how individuals respond to conflict, a facilitator can help people not only embrace their strengths and weaknesses but also the other party’s tendencies thus allowing for an instructive foundation to address the issue at hand. One other novel aspect of the Conflict Dynamic ProfileⓇ is that it is all encompassing; meaning the profile looks at how a person reacts prior to, during and after a conflict rather than merely focusing on the current problem. By taking this approach, the individual can be aware of their overall behaviors and be alert to possible negative responses. Lastly, some of the responses can be interpreted as positive or negative depending upon the circumstances (see my example above) so a thorough, deep dive into the specific situation is necessary.

Now let me share a scenario with you to make this concept a bit easier to understand:

Kim and Carlos are classmates in a graduate program. They have known each other for several years but neither considers the other a good friend. Earlier this afternoon they participated in a group discussion for an assignment due later this month. The gathering ended abruptly after Kim excused herself and left.

Kim is upset with Carlos for always taking over the conversation within the study group. According to Kim, Carlos is loud, abrasive and can’t take social cues from others. She detests obnoxious behavior and being dismissed.

Carlos shares that he is frustrated with Kim because she never speaks up, refuses to share her thoughts, and always runs out of the room crying. Specifically, today, the group met in a too-small study room and no one said a word! Once again Carlos took on the responsibility of starting the conversation and throwing out ideas. Carlos’ pet peeve is wasting time and people who refuse to be team players.

The group project is on hold until further notice . . .

In this instance, the Conflict Dynamic ProfileⓇ is utilized to:

(1.)   identify the behaviors taking place

(2.)   understand why these behaviors may be effective or ineffective when dealing with conflict and,

(3.)  offer options for overcoming these destructive behaviors

After reviewing the Conflict Dynamic ProfileⓇ, Kim learned that her need to reflect before responding and showing too much emotion could be perceived by others as being suspicious and even hostile. Carlos learned his behaviors did not serve him well and rather than being seen as a leader, they isolated him from the rest of the group. Both also learned about each other’s conflict-responding tendencies and were given suggestions to properly respond rather than hold tight to negative feelings. By understanding their individual tendencies each was able to make subtle changes to avoid unproductive responses and remain open to one another’s behaviors.

Note, the Conflict Dynamic ProfileⓇ does not explore new ideas as much as it views well-established ideas from a different vantage point and categorizes the various tendencies in a logical and user-friendly format. This training allowed me to step back from my normal response for assisting others with conflict, take a moment to help the parties become aware of their tendencies, and move forward with effective tools for resolving the concerns. Being able to categorize and decipher over a dozen behaviors is a unique way of addressing conflict and worth considering. I’m delighted to share this innovative idea with you – Not as cute as a puppy but hopefully a helpful tool!  For more information, visit the Conflict Dynamic ProfileⓇ website

By: Melissa Connell, Ombuds Office Director, University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus

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