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What I learned from Everything DiSC® Productive Conflict

Personal reflections about automatic thoughts and how to have more productive conflict with others.
4 min read

I’m nervous about sharing what I learned from Everything DiSC® Productive Conflict because this is a deeply personal profile. It forced me to look at myself in relationships and as a participant in conflicts. I’m a DiSC CD style. Most of us just want to avoid conflict and, instead, this profile insists that I engage with it.

I have been through The Five Behaviors Team Development with my coworkers, and I thought we did a great job discussing how we can engage in more productive conflict (one of the five behaviors). We’re a loud and pushy group with lots of the DiSC D behaviors. We are all working toward the same goals, we understand the values of our business, and we can hold each other accountable for results. But the Productive Conflict profile was much harder because it made me really look at myself.

“Because conflict will look different depending on the people and situations involved, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to making it productive. Instead the solution starts with you.”
Quote from page 2 of Everything DiSC Productive Conflict profile

I know that I can’t blame my DiSC style for any bad behavior on my part. It’s never an excuse. I am responsible for any destructive thoughts and how I choose to act on them. But first I have to acknowledge that I have these thoughts.

OMG, I have to take in feedback like this: “… you may unintentionally give off a strong disapproving vibe when people are not acting according to [your] standards.” I’ve heard that feedback from close friends and from acquaintances. My husband calls it “bad house face” because he’d see it when we were looking for a new house and I’d smell mildew. He has pointed it out to me on many other occasions since. I’m embarrassed by it and some of the other notes on page 3 of my profile. But I trust my team and can let them know that I want to work on some of these reactions. I do want this type of feedback, but I fear it as well. Normal, right?

Reading and reflecting on what drains my energy during conflict was really helpful. Seeing it on the printed page instead of feeling it during a real conflict made it easier to see how I could make changes. For example, it’s stressful for me not to have time to reflect upon an argument or consider another view, and needed the reminder that I can simply ask for that time. When faced with lots of emotion, I can remember to breathe and remember that others need to express their feelings and have them acknowledged. I need to practice giving feedback without appearing overly critical.

I can learn from people with other styles. I can watch how others communicate empathy and verbalize their emotions. And being so rational myself, I can evaluate the results and see that the world doesn’t collapse from too much emotion and their arguments aren’t always dismissed. I’m good about offering emotional reassurance during conflict with a loved one and I can probably do that in the workplace, too.

Thankfully by page 6 of the profile, I got some relief from all the focus on me and I received some advice about how to have more productive conflict with others. I should post a few suggestions on my wall such as “Don’t prolong the conflict by withdrawing.” That’s a behavior our team declared as unacceptable during conflict when we had our Five Behaviors training.

By page 10, I was feeling somewhat overloaded. It was just then that the profile asks you to reflect on a real-life, recent conflict. Now it was time to hold myself accountable for my actions during real conflict. I’m not going to share this example, but, yeah, I really could have done a better job there.

Steps: Conflict, automatic thoughts, step back and reframe, productive response

Going further into the profile, now was the time to really look at my automatic thoughts. Since sarcasm is one of my favorite go-to bad behaviors, I’ll share a little about it. Now I don’t use the “I’m just joking … lighten up” response offered as an example in the profile, but I certainly have a repertoire of others. Suggested automatic thoughts that might lead me to sarcasm were right on target: “That idea was ridiculous” and “Why would anyone say something so stupid?”

Section from Everything DiSC Productive Conflict: Why do I do this?

I didn’t agree with many of the automatic thoughts suggested in the profile. For example, when I withdraw from conflict, I’m not thinking “I’m just going to stay quiet until this thing is over.” So I was challenged to consider what my own automatic thoughts really were. I came up with “I’ll do what I want anyway—later.” Or even “I don’t value this relationship enough to expend any more energy with you.” Ouch. That was not much fun to realize or to share with you now. But sometimes I’m thinking “This is so much more important to you than to me. I value your needs. I’ll continue to disagree, but I will commit to this decision.”

By now I am really ready for this self-reflection to end. But we haven’t moved into the productive responses yet and I want to end on a positive. Page 19 helps with how to step back from your emotions and reframe your thoughts. I don’t know how well I did with this section, and I think working with a coach here would be really helpful.

Automatic thought: They are obviously never going to get it.
Reframed thought: It usually takes some time for people to get on the same page.

This is not a do-it and forget-it profile. This type of work takes practice and commitment. It takes asking others to hold you accountable for changing. It’s hard work. Going back to my profile and my notes (and sharing with you) has made it a little easier for some of the profile’s feedback and my own insights to sink in a bit deeper. They haven’t reached my foundation yet, but I see some progress. This is a challenge I hope you, too, take up. It’ll make our workplaces (and homes) more productive and just plain nicer.


Kristeen Bullwinkle

Steeped in Everything DiSC since 2010. Strongly inclined CD style. Leadership style and EQ mindset: resolute. Believes strongly in the serial comma.

Certifications from Wiley:
Everything DiSC, The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team

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