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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, 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.

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 Kilmann

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.… MORE >

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