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Volume 2, Number 2, Feb 2002

Conflict Coaching (page 3 of 4)

CERT's Use of Conflict Styles Coaching

The conflict styles coaching model is successful for CERT because undergraduate coaches are able to competently facilitate a process in which participants frequently get valuable new ideas about how to handle interpersonal conflict. The same basic process seems to work for walk-in participants, participants referred from university disciplinary proceedings and participants referred from academic classes.

The conflict styles model, as it is used at CERT, encounters at least two major challenges. First, the survey instrument used in this model was based on research with managers in business settings and therefore may not be applicable to campus settings. Related to this challenge is the authoritative/expert tone the survey may create. These challenges are mitigated by the coach making them transparent to the participant by explaining them and by inviting the participant to agree or disagree with the survey findings. Second, a coach's thorough understanding of the conflict styles is sometimes not enough of a knowledge base to respond to the expectations of coaching participants. Coaches undergo ongoing development in order to meet participants' fairly common requests for assistance with particular communication competencies.

Below is an outline of the conflict styles coaching process, as used by CERT. The outline is borrowed with permission from Temple University's Conflict Education Resource Team.


  • Personal introductions
  • Introduction to CERT and UCS
  • Confidentiality
  • Coaching explanation (i.e., focus on behavioral choices and behavioral interactions and not psychological issues
  • What to expect in this session
  • Participant hopes and expectations for the session

Conflict Styles

  • Introduction to the conflict styles instrument
  • Complete and score the instrument
  • Participant reflections: "What it was like to do the survey?
  • The survey in perspective
  • An explanation of each style (made in reference to the scored instrument)
  • Participant shares example of using each style (do individual style explanation and example cycles)
  • Style choice factors
  • Emphasize the "collaborative perspective" (combining personal empowerment and concern for other even though the conflict might not end in a collaborative outcome)
  • Participant shares reactions on the styles and the style profile

Developing Choices in a Particular Conflict

  • Introduction to a conflict exploration
  • Participant describes the conflict and, if helpful, the background to the conflict
  • Participant establishes what it would mean to approach the conflict from each of the five conflict styles
  • Participant evaluates the choices represented by the respective styles
  • Participant develops optimal choices
  • Participant determines next steps to take (i.e., in the actual conflict)
  • General reflections, questions, and reworking
  • Summary of the conflict exploration process


  • Acknowledge the challenges and opportunities of conflict
  • Invite final reflections and questions, particularly on what was most valuable and/or useful
  • Briefly summarize the participant's key points from throughout the session
  • Handout evaluation and exchange good-byes
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Page last updated 11/27/2005

A project of Campus Conflict Resolution Resources.
Supported by a FIPSE grant from the US Department of Education
and seed money from the Hewlett Foundation-funded CRInfo project.

Correspondence to CMHE Report
(Attn: Bill Warters)
Campus Conflict Resolution Resources Project
Department of Communication
585 Manoogian Hall
Wayne State University
Detroit, MI 48201.

Please send comments, bug reports, etc. to the Editor.

© 2000-2005 William C. Warters & WSU, All rights reserved.