How the ICS Inventory compares to other conflict measures

Key Differences between the ICS Inventory and Other Measures of Conflict Style

A number of writers have developed models of conflict style as well as assessment tools to measure conflict resolution approaches.[1] Some of the most common models and tools view conflict style in terms of two dimensions: Concern for self-interests and concern for the interests of the other party. One typology, for example, categorizes five conflict styles based on the person’s concern for self or other interests in terms of: (1) Dominating style (high self/low other concern), (2) Obliging style (low self/high other concern), (3) avoiding style (low self/low other concern, (4) Integrating style (high self/high other concern), and (5) compromising style (moderate self/moderate other concern).

Many of these conflict models/tools have been specifically developed using concepts and their associated characteristics that reflect a western-centric, individualistic cultural perspective. As a result, they are not culturally generalizable to other non-western, collectivistic cultural groups. Stella Ting-Toomey’s research for example, demonstrates that while an “avoidance” style may reflect a low concern for self-interests and a low concern for the interests of the other party in more individualistic cultures (e.g., U.S.), an “avoidance” approach is used in more collectivistic cultures to maintain relational harmony and therefore reflects a high concern for self-interests and a high concern for the other parties interests. Because of this, when individuals from more collectivistic cultures “profile” in the avoidance style, the interpretation provided by the assessment tool will indicate that their “avoidance” style shows little concern for either the persons’ own goals or the needs of the other party—when this cultural strategy in reality, is a positive, proactive approach to resolving conflicts in collectivistic groups! As a result, these western-centric models and instruments may reflect cultural bias when used with individuals from non-western, collectivistic cultural groups or with more collectivistic cultural communities within the U.S.

Further, many of these conflict style tools do not sufficiently assess conflict approaches based on a clear identification and empirical evidence of culturally generalizable patterns of cultural difference from which conflict style differences across diverse groups can be validly examined. The result is that claims that these instruments are culturally responsive may be suspect.

Finally, these instruments are typically offered in English and have not been translated into other languages or if translated, they have not used the scientific, “back translation” protocols to insure the items in these instruments “mean the same thing” in other languages with diverse cultural groups.

Because of these difficulties, Dr. Hammer developed a model and assessment tool that is not culturally biased but rather, cross-culturally generalizable and valid of intercultural communication and conflict style differences.

The Intercultural Conflict Style (ICS) model and Inventory:

  • Grounded in cross-cultural research on communication and conflict resolution styles (i.e., inclusive of non-western, collectivistic and western, individualistic cultures)
  • Identifies culturally generalizable, “intercultural” concepts and characteristics
  • Systematically employs “back translation” protocols to insure linguistic and conceptual equivalence of meaning across culturally diverse communities
[1] For references cited in this section and for more detailed information, see: (1) Hammer, M.R. (2015). The ICS Interpretive Guide. Washington D.C.: Hammer Consulting, LLC, (2) Hammer, M.R. (2015). The ICS Facilitator Manual. Washington D.C.: Hammer Consulting, LLC, (3) Hammer, M.R. (2009). Solving problems and resolving conflict using the Intercultural Conflict Style model and inventory. In M.A. Moodian (Editor). Contemporary Leadership and Intercultural Competence (chapter 17, pp. 219-232). Los Angeles, CA: Sage; and (4) Hammer, M.R. (2005). The Intercultural Conflict Style Inventory: A conceptual framework and measure of intercultural conflict approaches. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 29, 675-695.