BRIEF: CONFLICT STRATEGY ASSIGNMENT INSTRUCTIONS
This is a more comprehensive conflict assessment exercise, in which you are to analyze a
conflict that you were or still are personally involved with in the past six months. This analysis
will use concepts learned in class from readings and videos to look at the causes of the conflict,
as well as additional theoretical material that might help you better understand the conflict. The
goal is to equip for strategic responsiveness in conflict situations.
This assignment will expand your communication praxis abilities, putting theory to work in the
world in order to become a stronger communicator and leader. The audience for this brief is your
professor. It should be written as though you are submitting it to them for review and discussion.
Complete the brief by following these content and style requirements.
1. Using 5 – 7 significant ideas (in total) from our main texts in this class, analyze your
conflict situation and provide a constructive response—even if it is the decision not to
respond. (NOTE: All three main texts must be clearly represented with well-developed
connections in your response).
a. Consider the Hocker-Wilmot Conflict Assessment guide below for additional
structure, guiding questions and organizational considerations. If you choose to
work with some of this material, it does not count toward your 5-7 significant
2. The brief should be 1000 words.
a. 750 words for the analysis
b. 250 words for the executive summary
3. Content of assignment. The brief is to include the following components.
a. Cover Page (not included in word count).
b. Executive Summary that serves as a preview to the content found in the brief (250
words). An Executive Summary is NOT an academic abstract. The Executive
Summary previews the brief by giving away the key insights or findings in the
brief. Think of this as a one-page cheat sheet or as the “spoiler alert,” providing
the audience with the main ideas clearly stated in an easy-to-read format. Follow
the details at the end of these instructions to prepare this part of your brief.
c. Professional, thoughtfully analyzed response to the questions listed in the
following section (750 words).
d. Reference page (not included in word count).
4. Format of assignment: Follow APA Style, paying close attention to the formatting of in-
text citations, the reference list and headings. Creative business formatting as found in
Word templates is permitted, as long as APA style is adhered to in in-text citations and
references. Use of first person is permitted in this assignment; however, keep it to a
4. The brief should include:
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a. Succinct background to the conflict that you are going to analyze. In other words, tell
us the story of the conflict. Feel free to change the names to protect the innocent.
b. 5-7 significant ideas from our three main texts that are carefully woven together to help
you analyze your conflict situation. Use APA headings and sub-headings to help organize
the flow of the brief.
c. Citations from our three main texts and TWO additional sources are required to back
up your comments and assertions in your paper. Be sure to listen to any additional videos
or podcasts assigned by your instructor for this week. These count as additional sources.
The point is, do not just rely on your own comments, but back up those comments with
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: The Hocker-Wilmot Conflict Assessment Guide
This guide is composed of a series of questions designed to focus on the components of conflict.
It can be used to bring specific aspects of a conflict into focus and serve as a check on gaps in
information about a conflict. The guide is best used in full so that the interplay of conflict
elements can be clearly highlighted.
1. Nature of the Conflict
1. What are the "triggering events" that brought this conflict into mutual
2. What is the historical context of this conflict in terms of (1) the ongoing
relationship between the parties and (2) other, external events within
which this conflict is embedded?
3. Do the parties have assumptions about conflict that are discernable by
their choices of conflict metaphors, patterns of behavior, or clear
expressions of their attitudes about conflict?
4. Conflict elements:
1. How is the struggle being expressed by each party?
2. What are the perceived incompatible goals?
3. What are the perceived scarce rewards?
4. In what ways are the parties interdependent? How are they
interfering with one another? How are they cooperating to keep the
conflict in motion?
5. Has the conflict vacillated between productive and destructive phases? If
so, which elements were transformed during the productive cycles? Which
elements might be transformed by creative solutions to the conflict?
2. Styles of Conflict
1. What individual styles did each party use?
2. How did the individual styles change during the course of the conflict?
3. How did the parties perceive the other's style?
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4. In what way did a party's style reinforce the choices the other party made
as the conflict progressed?
5. Were the style choices primarily symmetrical or complementary?
6. From an external perspective, what were the advantages and disadvantages
of each style within this particular conflict?
7. Can the overall system be characterized as having a predominant style?
What do the participants say about the relationship as a whole?
8. From an external perspective, where would this conflict system be placed
in terms of cohesion and adaptability?
9. Would any of the other system descriptions aptly summarize the system
1. What attitudes about their own and the other's power does each party
have? Do they talk openly about power, or is it not discussed?
2. What do the parties see as their own and the other's dependencies on one
another? As an external observer, can you classify some dependencies that
they do not list?
3. What power currencies do the parties see themselves and the other
4. From an external perspective, what power currencies of which the
participants are not aware seem to be operating?
5. In what ways do the parties disagree on the balance of power between
them? Do they underestimate their own or the other's influence?
6. What impact does each party's assessment of power have on subsequent
choices in the conflict?
7. What evidence of destructive "power balancing" occurs?
8. In what ways do observers of the conflict agree and disagree with the
parties' assessments of their power?
9. What are some unused sources of power that are present?
1. How do the parties clarify their goals? Do they phrase them in
individualistic or system terms?
2. What does each party think the other's goals are? Are they similar or
dissimilar to the perceptions of self-goals?
3. How have the goals been altered from the beginning of the conflict to the
present? In what ways are the prospective, transactive, and retrospective
goals similar or dissimilar?
4. What are the content goals?
5. What are the relational goals?
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6. What is each party's translation of content goals into relationship terms?
How do the two sets of translations correspond or differ?
1. Do the participants appear to strategize about their conflict choices or
2. How does each party view the other's strategizing?
3. What are the tactical options used by both parties?
4. Do the tactical options classify primarily into avoidance, competition, or
5. How are the participants' tactics mutually impacting on the other's
choices? How are the tactics interlocking to push the conflict through
phases of escalation, maintenance, and reduction?
1. What rules of repetitive patterns characterize this conflict?
2. Can quantitative instruments be used to give information about elements
of the conflict?
1. What options for change do the parties perceive?
2. What philosophy of conflict characterizes the system?
3. What techniques for self-regulation or system-regulation have been used
thus far? Which might be used productively by the system?
8. Attempted Solutions
1. What options have been explored for managing the conflict?
2. Have attempted solutions become part of the problem?
3. Have third parties been brought into the conflict? If so, what roles did they
play and what was the impact of their involvement?
4. Is this conflict a repetitive one, with attempted solutions providing
temporary change, but with the overall pattern remaining unchanged? If
so, what is that overall pattern?
5. Can you identify categories of attempted solutions that have not been
Here’s how to prepare an Executive Summary.
● ASK YOURSELF: If my target audience could only read this one page to understand my
brief, what do they need to know? By the time the reader finishes the Executive
Summary, they should be able to:
○ State the main idea.
○ Clearly identify the key insights or significant points made in your brief.
○ Accurately recap the next steps based on your findings.
● WHAT TO INCLUDE: Follow these guidelines to ensure that the content is complete.
○ Clear statement of purpose. This is your thesis (your WHY) for the brief.
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○ Key insights. Be specific, not vague. Share your findings here.
○ Next steps. Be specific. List what you’ve learned that’s relevant to your audience.
○ Concise writing. Stay focused and on point with your content.
○ Professional language. Write for your audience. Aim to be clear, not clever.
○ Easy-to-read formatting. Use bullet points to emphasize key ideas.
○ APA citations. Usen APA style if source support is provided.
● MORE ON HOW TO WRITE AN EXECUTIVE SUMMARY. Use the general structural
recommendations in these sources for additional insight into how to prepare an Executive
Summary. These are only guides. Emulate aspects of these sources that help you frame
your brief well. You can find links to these articles on the Brief Assignment pages under
GOOD STYLISTIC APPROACH: This will help you think through how to be
compelling in this part of your brief.
GOOD GENERAL OVERVIEW: This will help you think through how to format for
GOOD ACADEMIC ABSTRACT vs. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY REVIEW: This will
help you avoid writing the more traditional academic abstract, which serves a similar
function in scholarly papers/publications.
Note: Your assignment will be checked for originality via the Turnitin plagiarism tool.
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