Icebreakers – Conflict Management

Kenneth A. Wells said, “A good listener tries to understand what the other person is saying. In the end he may disagree sharply, but because he disagrees, he wants to know exactly what it is he is disagreeing with.”

How would listening to understand have made a difference in a conflict you were involved in?

Some psychologists refer to dealing with pain and conflict as to peeling an onion; you get rid of the top layer before peeling off the deeper layer beneath. Choose a vegetable or fruit (other than an onion). What is a similarity between this vegetable or fruit and conflict?

Most people with dogs will tell you that as soon as a dog hears thunder in the distance, it will start whining and wanting to be let in. Cats, on the other hand, while they must be scared of the thunder and lightening, remain aloof and silent.

Which are you most like when conflict thunders about you – the whimpering, scared dog? Or the aloof and silent cat that seems not to hear the cracks, booms and roars all around it?

In the movie, “Jurassic Park,” the dinosaurs varied substantially in their behaviour. There was nothing subtle about Tyrannosaurus Rex – it used brute force to get its own way. The Velociraptor (Raptor) was clever, and worked with others to manipulate its prey into a vulnerable position. The Duckbill ran from danger whenever possible. The small Compsognathus (Compy) looked harmless but when around injured prey it would dart in, nip quickly with paralyzing venom, and then run off, only to return later to finish the attack.

Which of these dinosaurs are you most like? Which one would your co-workers say you most resemble?

Imagine that the world you lived in disappeared overnight. You awoke to find yourself in an alien space ship populated by two very different species, the Swisserorgs, and the Italiemotes. The Swisserorgs are very precise, logical beings who value order and self-control above all other things. The Italiemotes are spontaneous, emotional beings who believe that controlling one’s real emotions is dishonest. These beings, obviously, cannot live with each other – the Swisserorgs live on one level of the spaceship while the Italiemotes inhabit the other.

Which of these two beings will you choose to live with? Why?

Is the way you deal with conflict, more like a:

  • Hawk;
  • Dove;
  • Ostrich;
  • Hummingbird; or
  • Seagull?


A wise man by the name of Jeff Daly once said, “Two monologues do not make a dialogue.” Another wise man named Jack Nichols said, “Every person I work with knows something better than me. My job is to listen long enough to find it and use it.”

Tell me about a time when listening would have solved a conflict before it started.

Think of all the different sports – curling, hockey, soccer, football, tennis. All of these entail pitting your skill against an opponent’s. In a similar way, many people also view conflict as a game of skill. It is a game to be won by the more skilful competitor. When you are involved in a conflict at work, which sport best describes your play? Why?

If you knew that you were going to have a confrontation with someone, which mode of transportation would you take to get there?

  • Concord jet;
  • Motorcycle;
  • Rowboat;
  • Horse drawn carriage; or
  • Your own two feet walking backwards.


We’ve all either been to a zoo or viewed a zoo on television. Which zoo animal do you feel like when you are confronted by conflict? Explain.

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