“Leading through Conflict” was the theme of Seminar 4.1; a one-day online seminar to allow for continued education during the pandemic.

All 27 participants were welcomed by Olga Brouwer, Executive Director, with a poem by the Minnesota poet Robert Bly. After updates on the adapted schedule and sharing of good news and other announcements, program leader Toby Spanier introduced the topic of the day: Navigating Conflict.

In small groups in virtual breakout-rooms, participants discussed how they see conflict by answering questions in a handout. We discussed how there are, broadly speaking, five different causes of conflict:

  1. Information:Something was missing, incomplete or ambiguous.
  2. Structural: Something in the environment leads to the conflict.
  3. Interest:Competition over perceived incompatible needs.
  4. Relationship:The presence of strong negative emotions, misconceptions or stereotypes, poor communication, or miscommunication.
  5. Values:A clash of personal values leads to conflict.

The Thomas-Killman Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI) assessment was completed by all before the seminar, which allowed us to work in groups of same conflict mode/style. TKI identifies the following modes, which were all represented in Class XI: Avoiding, Accommodating, Competing, Compromising and Collaborating. Typical characteristics of each mode were discussed, as well as how to adjust to each conflict mode in real situations. Lastly, during this segment, we talked about least preferred styles.

After a lunch break, it was time to dive into the topic of “Difficult Conversations”, and the factors that play a role in this. The last segment of the day was introduced by Program Leader Christy Kallevig: “Conflict and Communications in Meetings”. Christy used the famous Snoopy characters as examples. We learned about the Communication styles: Passive, Aggressive, Passive-Aggressive and Assertive. There was also attention for difficult meeting behaviors:

  • Monopolizers
  • Challengers
  • Distracters
  • Bewares

To wrap up the session on Conflict in Meetings, concepts of Rethinking and Relearning were introduced. Plenty of great conversations and sharing of all, helped to visualize the challenges.

The day concluded with the class sharing Golden Nuggets of this seminar, including: Practicality, Resources on Conflict, EQ-i – I’m no fun in meetings, Conflict avoider, Self-awareness, Cultivate safe environment, Positive compliments, Timing, Applicability, Individual Rethinking, Recognizing styles, Be prepared for negative emotions, Individual characteristics, Context, New tools for conflict, Difficult conversations, Intend vs. Impact, Love one another, Practice conflict, Refueling feelings, Implementing Individuality.

That concluded the last virtual seminar of Class XI. We are planning on meeting in-person in Thief River Falls, June 23-25, 2021.

Submitted by Olga Brouwer, Executive Director MARL

Southwest Minnesota State University