The “Do’s and Dont’s” of Conflict: Function Pairs As an MBTI practitioner, helping teams address conflict and reach more amicable solutions are amongst some of the most popular requests I receive. With the use of the MBTI® instrument, I help team members acknowledge that not only do our definitions of conflict differ as a function of our preferences, but our type also influences how we need to move through conflict to feel satisfied with the discourse, and the outcome. Specifically, our function pairs – those two middle letters that determine our methods of gathering information and then making decisions with the material we have inventoried – help determine what I call our ‘do’s and don’t’s of conflict. By helping team members recognize, anticipate and cater to some of their colleagues’ needs during times of conflict, the chances of cooperative and fruitful results exponentially increase, reaching a solution in a more efficient way that satisfies more of the involved parties’ needs. In order to target some of these ‘conflict do’s and don’ts’, I run an activity that asks the participants to group into the function pairs: ST, SF, NT, NF. I then ask these groups to jot down and discuss what the best things others can do when in conflict with them – and the worsts. Use these tips to remind your participants that although we all have our natural ‘default’ way of dealing with conflict, we may need to flex and modify our behaviour in order better handle conflict with coworkers: ST – The bottom line people The Best things others can do during conflict: Be rational and objective; don’t allow it to become personal. The worst things others can do during conflict: Be emotional and irrational. Get aggressive. SF – The customer service people The Best things others can do during conflict: Talk to me directly, rationally, and calmly. Listen with respect and understanding. The worst things others can do during conflict: Not listen to me. Discount what I’m saying. NT – The system theorists The best things others can do during conflict: Deal logically and provide reasons/rationale for your position. Don’t get personal. The worst things others can do during conflict: Under-use logic and over-appeal to emotions. Shut down. NF – Possibilities for People The best things others can do during conflict: Be calm and listen. Express your feelings and acknowledge mine. The worst things others can do during conflict: Yell. Attack my values or beliefs. In addition to the above, I also remind individuals to allow time to process (introversion), opportunities to talk it through (extraversion), make efforts to seek efficient resolution (J) but remain patient if more information is needed before coming back to the table (P). This way, all aspects of type and preference are accommodated and the appropriate information is gathered and utilized productively. By first understanding our own ‘default settings’ we can start to acknowledge – and appreciate – that others may not approach conflict in the same way. The true advantage for team members comes from being mindful enough during a conflict or crisis to recognize and accommodate the needs of others. In reality, we don’t necessarily know the preferences of those we work with; it’s not as if we wear type name-tags. However, by remembering the tips above and by injecting aspects of all the function pair needs into our conflict-handling methods, we can make sure that regardless of who we work with, we can maximize the effective outcomes of conflict. Here are some of what I call “Universal Conflict Tips” that team members can use: 1) Realize your way of seeing and reacting to conflict is not the same as the other individual, and all reactions are valid. 2) Try to shift your focus from “What can others do for me” to “What can I do for others”. This will make you proactive, and effective conflict resolution is more likely. 3) Remember that ‘conflict selflessness’ will make everyone more effective: regardless of our type preferences, we should always seek to understand and accommodate whenever possible – especially on teams. The ideal outcome: a cooperative, more trusting and cohesive team… even in the midst of inevitable disagreement. If you’re interested in enhancing your expertise further regarding Type and Conflict, please check out our 2015 Psychometrics Master Class Series Dates for training in topics that include Leadership, Stress, Conflict, Optimizing Team Performance, and Step II exploration.