Negotiation Barometry: A Dynamic Measure of Conflict Management Style
24 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2013 Last revised: 21 Mar 2014
Date Written: April 2, 2013
Learning to negotiate well requires both interpersonal and intrapersonal skills. Meaningful self-reflection can uncover substantive interests as well as process motivations. But self-reflection does not come easily to all students of negotiation, so over the years teachers and trainers have adopted tools and tests that facilitate students’ exploration of their own styles and orientations. The Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI) is one such tool, and it has been extremely popular with students and teachers alike. Many negotiation professors use the TKI to help students reflect on their “default” or reflexive approach to conflict. Yet the TKI has its flaws. One of the weaknesses of the TKI is that it seems to assume a “static self,” one that can be captured in freeze-frame without reflecting the likelihood that the emotional tenor of a conflict — and the presentation of self within it — can change. This paper will suggest adjustments to the current TKI in order to capture more accurately the way styles can change in the course of a negotiation. A new tool, the Dynamic Negotiating Approach Diagnostic (DYNAD), asks participants to assess themselves both at the start of a conflict and then again after the conflict becomes more difficult. Many negotiators find that they shift — they change their styles in one way or another — to adjust to the rising temperature of the conflict. Awareness of this negotiation barometer can provide crucial lessons to negotiation students.
This paper will first focus on the TKI and the theories that were used in its development. Second, it will discuss how the TKI is used in negotiation classes. Not only does the TKI raise students’ awareness of their own reflexive responses to conflict, it can also help them understand behaviors they observe in their negotiating counterparts. By raising awareness in this way, the TKI can both empower students who are likely to be overly accommodating and help to temper over-claiming by more aggressive students. Third, it will discuss strengths and weaknesses of the TKI, as well as other diagnostic instruments that type people by their personality, approach to conflict, or other characteristics potentially relevant to their work as negotiators. Next, the paper discusses the DYNAD instrument and shows the ways it differs from the TKI. Rather than presenting a pair of statements between which the participant must choose, this instrument asks participants to rate themselves with respect to each type of response to conflict. In addition, this instrument specifically asks participants to reflect on how they handle conflict at the beginning and then during a more heated phase of a conflict. Finally, the paper examines how debriefing the DYNAD is similar to, and yet more nuanced than, the traditional TKI debrief. Participants are still categorized into the traditional five styles of the TKI and can be similarly graphed along axes of concern for “self” versus “other.” A key difference in debriefing is the discussion about shifting styles to reflect the dynamics of the negotiation and how styles should and could change during the negotiation. This distinction allows students to think about conflict management type — their own as well as others’ — in ways that may better prepare them for the calms and storms of actual conflict.
Keywords: negotiation, conflict, negotiation styles, negotiation pedagogy, skills
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation