Technical Information on
The Kraybill Conflict Style Inventory
Style Matters is a conflict style inventory that assesses the response of users to conflict
in two settings, Calm and Storm. Users answer twenty questions and receive two sets
of scores, one for Calm settings and one for Storm. Users are guided in interpreting
their scores in the context of a graphic showing the five styles.
Underlying Theoretical Frameworks
Mouton Blake Axis. Like the Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument, the five conflict
styles underlying Style Matters are derived from the Mouton-Blake Axis, which
compares preference for personal goals and preference for relationship.
Dynamic understanding of conflict. Style Matters assumes that responses to conflict are
dynamic, not static, and that conflict responses are likely to be different when emotions
are high than when differences first arise. Ten questions are worded in such a way as to
elicit user responses to conflict when it first arises and emotions are not yet high, a
setting referred to by the inventory as Calm. A second set of ten questions asks users
to describe their response in settings of Storm, that is, when initial efforts to resolve
things have not been successful and emotions have increased.
Conflict as culturally influenced. Style Matters also assumes that conflict responses are
influenced by cultural setting, and draws on the distinction proposed by E.T. Hall
between “high context” and “low context” cultures. Users are invited to choose
between two sets of instructions to follow while taking the inventory. One set of
instructions, for users from low context cultural backgrounds, asks users to answer
questions in a way that is true to their typical way of responding to conflict. An
alternative set, for people from high context cultures in which response to conflict is
highly determined by the nature of the relationship, asks users to choose one conflict
situation, or one type of relationship, such as with peers in the work setting, and hold
this in mind while answering questions.
Trainers who wish to administer the inventory in the simplest way possible can easily
ignore the cultural flexibility features of the inventory and instruct users to use a
particular set of instructions.
Format of Answers
Users answer questions on a seven point Likert scale with “Rarely” corresponding to 1
and “Usually” to 7. E.g.:
A 2005 doctoral study using Style Matters found that the instrument performed well in
reliability testing and is “valid and reliable”. Jean Chronis Kuhn, who received her
Doctorate in Nursing Practice at Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions,
administered Style Matters to Massachusetts nursing home directors to assess conflict
management styles before and after a conflict management teaching intervention. In
her conclusion, Chronis Kuhn wrote that the inventory performed well in reliability
testing, "leading to the conclusion that the model and conflict measurement tools have
immense applicability to other nursing settings as well as sustainability.”
A larger research project conducted by researchers in the Communications Department
at West Chester University of Pennsylvania in 2009-2010 administered Style Matters to
more than three hundred subjects and tested various wordings of questions for validity
and reliability, standard benchmarks of consistency and accuracy of measurement in
testing. Adjustments were then made to reflect these findings in subsequent versions.
Based on the results of their research, the researchers rated Style Matters well on both
counts, and reported their findings in a peer-reviewed essay by M.E. Braz, B. Lawton, R.
Kraybill, & K. Daly, K., "Validation of the Kraybill Conflict Style Inventory," submitted to
the 2010 Annual Convention of the National Communication Association, San
Fransisco. A related essay by Mary Braz and Bessie Lawton, "Kraybill Conflict Style
Inventory Validation" was published in the Humanities and Science University Journal, 2,
2012, pages 9-24.
Riverhouse ePress actively supports objective scholarly research into conflict styles by
providing access to Style Matters at no cost to serious academic research projects, while
maintaining a policy of complete objectivity regarding findings.
Style Matters is available in:
- a twenty three page full color print version
- a PDF version that is identical to the print version, allowing for trainers or users to print
out their own hard copy.
- a fully-automated online version that scores users and creates a 6 page score report
tailored to the user’s score, with suggested strategies of self-management based on
A twenty five page Trainers Guide keyed to the print version is available free to any
taker on the Riverhouse website. A ten slide “Introduction to Conflict Styles” is also
available for free online use on the website or can be purchased for a modest price.
The print/paper versions contain thirteen pages of information to support a training
workshop on conflict styles. The online version provides users with access to an online
tutorial containing the same information plus additional visuals and charts, in addition
to a six page score report.
For a modest additional cost, trainers can purchase a Trainer’s Dashboard to facilitate
administration of Style Matters. The Dashboard enables trainers to:
- See at a glance which of their users have taken the inventory
- Manage the user experience by, for example, clicking a button that sends reports
to the trainer and delays sending to the taker until the trainer chooses
- Enables the trainer to immediately download and view user reports
- Send emails to users, as individuals or as a group.
- Download scores of multiple users in an Excel file, for easy aggregration of scores.