As most certified CDP users know, there are myriad uses of the instrument in a variety of settings. One context which is becoming more popular is within institutions of higher education, both with students and also with college administration, faculty, and staff members.
Lola Mason, Director of Organizational Development at Carnegie Mellon and an adjunct faculty member at the Heinz Graduate School, has also seen the benefits of the CDP firsthand with her students. As part of a seven-week conflict resolution class, graduate students take the CDP-I and then create an informal 360 report for themselves by interviewing four people from among family members, friends, or coworkers. After explaining the CDP scales, the students share their results and ask for feedback including, “Can you give me an example of a time when you saw me using this particular behavior?” After the interviews are completed, students submit a paper detailing what they learned and how they might handle conflict differently in the future.
Mason says there are lots of “ahas” from the assignment. Having previously received feedback on the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Inventory and the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory, students make multiple connections between their own personal styles and behaviors and how they connect with others. One student shared a story of how she did her interview with a previous coworker who is now a friend. They happened to have the discussion in a restaurant. The student told her friend how she was surprised that she scored so high on Demeaning Others and asked, “I don’t think I ever do that” to which the friend replied, “You just did to our waiter! When the waiter said they were out of iced tea, you promptly started to shout at him and berate him for something that wasn’t his fault.” From this timely example came a very insightful exchange that increased the student’s self awareness tremendously.
Other students share similar stories where having the interviews/discussions about the CDP with people who know them well leads to closer relationships and improved conflict resolution skills. Example: “I have to admit that it is almost scary how accurately the instrument describes me in almost every situation. And, the feedback I got from my interviews only provides me with more evidence to that effect. To be completely honest, the past few weeks have been one of the strongest periods of internal reflection I’ve had in quite some time, and it has been very helpful in helping me understand a lot of my own behaviors.”
Interestingly, the word has spread about the benefits of the class, and there is a huge waiting list for registration. The class draws students from many different majors, including highly technical fields. Often, it is the first time such students have ever explored these kinds of conflict issues.
Another certified user who uses the CDP extensively is Dale Robinson, Manager of Conflict Resolution Programs at Virginia Tech. Robinson oversees three primary areas for faculty and staff: Mediation Services, Conflict Workshops, and Conflict Coaching.
Robinson and his staff of 20 trained mediators offer the CDP-I as a “post-mediation” service for participants to examine more thoroughly implications from the original dispute. Feedback from the instrument is often helpful in illuminating how a person’s behaviors may have escalated a conflict. Robinson says that not only do participants gain insight into what they brought to the situation, but they also have a chance to develop more constructive responses for the future through individual debriefing sessions.
In addition to Mediation Services, Robinson also conducts several conflict resolution training programs throughout the year for faculty, staff, and sometimes students. These workshops are framed around the CDP-I and can last anywhere from two hours to a full day depending on the objectives and type of audience. Robinson begins by explaining the CDP concepts, conducts a group debriefing on the feedback, and then spends the remainder of the time focusing on skill-building areas such as active listening and generating options.
As a follow-up, participants are offered the opportunity to schedule an individual feedback session on their CDP results which, in turn, often leads to additional coaching. Robinson says these individual coaching meetings are perfect for devising new strategies and helping people to apply constructive resolution techniques to ongoing situations they’re dealing with in the workplace.
One reason the CDP is so useful, says Robinson, is that it “helps people realize that everyone uses both constructive and destructive behaviors when dealing with conflict. We’re not alone when we don’t always respond as best as we could, but the CDP and the accompanying Development Guide give us encouragement and ways to improve.”
Because of the success of these programs at Virginia Tech, Robinson has been asked to help develop the curriculum for new programs at the Virginia Department of Employment Dispute Resolution. The Department’s mission is to provide state agencies and their employees with a broad range of workplace dispute resolution tools.
At Eckerd College, the CDP is well known throughout the campus as it is used at the Leadership Development Institute, the Mediation Training Institute, in academic programs on campus, and also with staff development opportunities. Rebecca Armacost. Director of Conflict Dynamics and Mediation and Norm Smith, Associate Dean and Director of the Center for Applied Liberal Arts collaborate to use the CDP with students.
In a class for freshmen called Options for the Future: Career and Self Understanding, students take a variety of assessment tools in addition to the CDP including the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory, the Realise2, Entrepreneurial Mindset Profile, and the Strong Interest Inventory. The discussions about the CDP feedback focus on issues with roommates, professors, and parents. Students are surprised to learn how the concepts can be applied in so many different arenas. “Why didn’t you teach us this in high school?” is a common reaction after students experience group exercises and lectures which highlight the different CDP scales. Rebecca uses simulation activities from the CDP Trainer’s Tool Kit to kick off the program and help the students to think about specific topics related to human interaction and conflict resolution.
At New York University, staff and faculty are invited to participate in professional development offerings throughout the year. One particular program that has been very well received is the Navigating Conflict course taught by Jamie Telegadis, President of JTA Consulting, Inc. This half-day course includes Deans, Assistant Deans, managers, and supervisors from all different divisions of the university.
Telegadis uses the CDP-I as the focal point of the program. After taking part in ice breaker exercises, walking through the CDP scales, and receiving feedback, participants then spend the remainder of the morning concentrating on two specific items: Perspective Taking and Reaching Out. As part of the Reaching Out content, Telegadis uses an exercise from Developing Your Conflict Competence by Craig Runde and Tim Flanagan which enables people to practice creating and delivering apologies. Later, participants engage in a partner activity where they formulate action plans and apply lessons from the day to real-life conflicts.
Telegadis says it’s amazing how the program can change people’s perceptions about the value of conflict. Once they examine the scales in more depth, they are able to take more innovative approaches to working through disputes.
As the CDP becomes more widely used within colleges and universities, the potential for the concepts to expand into different organizations increases. As students graduate and establish careers in multiple fields, the hope is that they will bring more effective conflict resolution skills along with them.