Part 1: Teaching Students What Conflict Management Is and Why It Is Important
Part 2: Understanding Your Ability to Manage Conflicts
Part 3: Understanding Your Usual Response to Conflict
- Teach Students: 3a. Conflict Management Styles
- Teach Students: 3b. Understanding the Five Conflict Management Styles
- Teach Students: 3c. Determining the Most Appropriate Conflict Management Style
Part 4: Embedding Opportunities for Students to Practice Conflict Management
Part 5: The College and Career Competency Framework
Part 3: Understanding Your Usual Response to Conflict
Learning Target: Students will be able to recognize different conflict management styles and discern the appropriateness of each reaction for various contexts and situations. Through the Conflict Management Styles Assessment, students will learn more about their natural inclination when responding to conflict.
In Part 3, you will learn more about how to support students in becoming more self-aware of how they respond to tension, disagreements, and conflict. You will teach students five specific conflict management styles, or ways of addressing and resolving conflict. Each conflict management style is distinct and uniquely suited to specific situations. You will ask your students to take the Conflict Management Styles Assessment (Atkins, 2006) to help them identify how they react to conflict, as well as learn five possible styles or strategies to respond to conflict situations.
As students learn about the five conflict management styles and how using the various styles can help produce a constructive result for a specific conflict, they can improve their ability to attain workable solutions and be better at managing conflict.
Here are the five different conflict management styles. Before you introduce them to your students, think about interactions you have recently experienced. Did you notice one or two of these styles being used more frequently? Could a different style produce a better outcome?
Avoiding: Turtles tend to value avoiding confrontation more than their goals or relationships. They often find it easier to withdraw from a conflict than face it; this might even include completely giving up relationships or goals associated with the conflict.
Accommodating: Teddy Bears typically value their relationships over their goals; if forced to choose, Teddy Bears might sacrifice their goals to maintain relationships. Teddy Bears generally want to be liked by others and prefer to avoid conflict because they believe addressing it will damage relationships.
Compromising: Foxes are moderately concerned with both their goals and their relationships. Foxes typically seek a compromise; they give up part of their goals and persuade the other person in a conflict to give up part of their goals.
Competing: Sharks typically value their goals over relationships, meaning that if forced to choose, they might seek to achieve their goals even at the cost of the relationship involved. Sharks are typically more concerned with accomplishing their goals than being liked by others.
Collaborating: Owls highly value both their goals and their relationships. They view conflict as a problem to be solved and seek a solution that achieves both their goals and the other person’s goals.
Teach Students: 3a. Conflict Management Styles
Briefly review the definition of conflict (i.e., a struggle or contest between people with opposing needs, ideas, beliefs, or goals) and the conflict management components (i.e., knowing how you usually respond to conflict, the reasons behind specific conflicts, and taking steps to resolve conflicts). Refer to the Conflict Management Poster and the three components, and explain to students that this lesson will focus on the first component— knowing your usual response to conflict.
Introduce students to the following five terms and tell students that these are the styles or types of conflict management.
Have students read the Attributes of the Five Conflict Management Styles table individually, and then break them into small groups. Next, have students work in their groups to create two possible statements for each conflict management style on the “Teach Students: 3a. Conflict Management Styles” handout (Handout 3a. linked to on page 11 of the Educator Workbook). Then debrief as a large group, explaining each style and having three to five students share corresponding possible statements.
Summarize the activity by telling students that they need to know the five conflict management styles in order to decide which style is most appropriate for various contexts and situations. Knowing and deciding which conflict management style to apply to each situation will help you influence the situation’s outcome.
Listen as Dr. Pattie Noonan reviews the five conflict management styles and offers her own suggestions for possible statements.
3a. Reflect and Apply: Review the five conflict management styles and think about a recent interaction that involved a conflict. Respond to the below reflection questions.
- Which conflict management style best captures how you responded to the conflict and why?
- Describe a time when you reacted with one style but wish you had chosen another style instead.
- Is there one particular conflict management style that you frequently use? If so, what are the benefits and drawbacks of this style?
Write your responses to these questions on page 7 of the Educator Workbook.
For students to develop the ability to determine which conflict management style is appropriate for each situation, they first need to understand various common reactions to conflict. In Teach Students: 3b. Understanding the Five Conflict Management Styles, students use the Conflict Management Styles Assessment to identify how they commonly react to conflict. Later, students will collaborate to decide which conflict management style is appropriate for various scenarios.
Teach Students: 3b. Understanding the Five Conflict Management Styles
Begin by reviewing the five conflict management styles and the characteristics of each. Remind students that we react to conflicts in several different ways but that each of us likely has a conflict management style that feels more natural to us. Next, show students the video of Mackenzie explaining how she used conflict management to address a situation that involved spending time with friends.
Debrief the video by discussing how Mackenzie chose to manage the conflict involving her friends and the outcome. What was the problem involving Mackenzie and her friends? What were the different perspectives, and how did Mackenzie resolve the issue? Ask students to determine which conflict management style she used and if that was the best style for this situation.
Tell students that they will take the Conflict Management Styles Assessment (Atkins, 2006) to help them determine how they usually react to conflict. They should consider each response carefully. The more thought and consideration they give to their answers, the more accurate the results will be. This assessment can be completed at https://www.cccstudent.org/, which will automatically graph individual student and classroom data. The Technical Guide provides additional information on this assessment.
Administer the Conflict Management Styles Assessment (Atkins, 2006). Print hard copies for students; printed copies are recommended to make it easier for students to track their answers and calculate their preferred style.
Ask students to note which style is their highest on the “Teach Students: 3b. Understanding the Five Conflict Management Styles” handout (Handout 3b. linked to on page 11 of the Educator Workbook). If two styles have the same score, students should use the definitions to evaluate their recent responses to conflict and determine which belongs higher on their lists.
Divide the class into groups based on their preferred conflict management style: Avoiding, Accommodating, Compromising, Competing, and Collaborating.
Ask each group to:
- List 3–4 examples of conflicts in which your preferred conflict management style would be appropriate and a good choice.
- List 3–4 examples of conflicts in which your conflict management style would not be the best option and describe why.
Ask each group to share situations where their assigned conflict management style would be appropriate and situations where the style would not be the best option. Explain to students that no specific style works best in every situation; each has pros and cons and can be useful depending on the situation. Watch as a teacher explains the conflict management styles and students discuss the strengths and limitations of their preferred styles.
3b. Reflect and Apply: Take the Conflict Management Styles Assessment and determine which conflict management style(s) you most frequently use.
- Think of 3–4 daily interactions in which your usual conflict management style is appropriate.
- Think of 3–4 daily interactions in which your usual conflict management style is not the best option.
Record your thoughts on page 7 of the Educator Workbook.
At this point in your conflict management instruction, your students should understand what conflict is, that it is a normal part of life, and that conflict can lead to stronger relationships when handled properly. They are more self-aware of how they frequently react and respond to disagreements and conflict. They also have a basic understanding of five conflict management styles. In Teach Students: 3c. Determining the Most Appropriate Conflict Management Style, students will explore when to use each conflict management style.
Teach Students: 3c. Determining the Most Appropriate Conflict Management Style
Tell students that they will practice determining which conflict management style is most appropriate for a set of scenarios. For each scenario, they will consider how each of the five conflict management styles would potentially impact the outcome.
Have students read each scenario and then describe the likely result if they used the avoiding, accommodating, competing, compromising, or collaborating styles. If these scenarios don’t resonate with your students, have them generate a list of common conflict situations they experience. Review the below example with your students as a whole group activity. Then have students record their responses for each scenario on the “Teach Students: 3c. Determining the Most Appropriate Conflict Management Style” handout (Handout 3c. linked to on page 11 of the Educator Workbook).
Example: You want to stay out an hour past your curfew to see your favorite band, but your parents are pretty strict about curfew.
Avoiding: You don’t ask your parents and don’t get to see the band.
Accommodating: You ask, but if your parents say, “No,” the conversation ends, and you don’t get to see the band.
Competing: You tell your parents that you’re going and will miss curfew; they ground you, and you don’t get to see the band.
Compromising: You share why you want to go to see your favorite band and offer to do extra chores to make up for the fact that you will miss curfew.
Collaborating: You discuss your desire to see your favorite band with your parents. You acknowledge that this will mean staying out later than usual and that you understand why your parents are concerned about you staying out late. You explain how you will stay safe and when you will catch up on sleep.
Once students have had time to read and respond to each scenario, facilitate a class discussion to determine which conflict management style is best to use in each situation.
- Your friend asked to copy your science homework and has been avoiding you all day because you would not let them.
- You were trying to help your sibling learn to swim but got in trouble from your parents for not asking before you took them to the pool.
- While working on a group project, one of the group members has failed to contribute anything to the project and it is due next week.
- You think your friend has been spreading rumors about you. You want to discuss the problem but maintain your friendship.
Watch as a teacher facilitates this activity.
3c. Reflect and Apply: Review each of the scenarios from Teach Students: 3c. Determining the Most Appropriate Conflict Management Style. Do you plan to teach this activity using the scenarios as written, or would you modify the scenarios to meet the needs of your students? What are some everyday situations in which your students experience conflict that you could develop into scenarios? Jot your ideas down on page 7 of the Educator Workbook.