Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Principled Commitment: An Adult Program on Building Strong Relationships

Activity 3: Engaging Conflict Collaboratively

Activity time: 25 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Set up tables, or find books or other hard surfaces for writing.
  • Study the handout to familiarize yourself with the grid and the styles of conflict engagement that are shown on it.

Description of Activity

Share these or similar words of focus for the activity:

Collaboration is seldom conflict-free. In fact, collaboration often depends on conflict, as the collaborators start out with different needs, concerns, and ideas.

In any conflict, both parties make choices about which is more important: the desired outcome of the conflict - in other words, getting what they want - or building the relationship. How they rank these goals guides how they deal with conflict.

Distribute Handout 1, Styles of Conflict Engagement. Explain that along the left side of the grid, the importance of the relationship can be ranked low, medium, or high. Across the top of the grid, the importance of the outcome can be ranked low, medium, or high. By looking at where these rankings intersect, we can see how a person might tend to react to conflict. You may wish to review the handout's examples with participants.

Ask for questions and comments about the grid. Point out that sometimes, our approach to conflict doesn't reflect our values. We may not actually believe that the outcome is more important than the relationship, yet behave as if it were. In seeking the outcome we want, we might act in ways that hurt the relationship.

Distribute writing paper and pens or pencils. Invite participants to spend ten minutes reflecting individually about a recent conflict with their partner or someone else whose relationship is important to them. Ask them to consider the questions listed on the handout, writing their responses on separate paper.

After ten minutes, re-gather the large group. Invite comments and questions. Encourage partners to talk with one another at home about what they learned from reflecting on their style of conflict engagement.