Topic 3 Communication skills for conflict resolution

Since parent- and teacher-youth conflicts are natural and inevitable, it is important both for the adults and the young people to acquire and implement social skills that will enhance effective conflict resolution.

Making use of the communication skills that reinforce resolution can boost warmth in the relationship, improve the ability of problem solving and negotiability, reduce hostility, induce the sense that individuals are being heard and generally create more fulfilling relationships.

  1. “The Win-Win Approach”: By addressing the need and concerns of all the parties, the aim is to turn opponents into peace partners.
  2. “Creative Response”: See the problem that arises as an opportunity to learn more, explore and experiment possible solutions. 
  3. “Empathy”: Develop communication skills to build rapport and use listening to clarify understanding of the peace process. Provide enough information so empathy can be developed for all parties. Address labelling, stereotyping and prejudice.
  4. “Appropriate Assertiveness”: Apply strategies to attack the problem, not the persons. Do not encourage personal attacks and be respectful towards the people.
  5. “Co-operative Power”: Eliminate “power over” to build “power with” others. Encourage cooperative problem-solving and avoid injustice and ignorance.
  6. “Managing Emotions”: Express fear, anger, hurt and frustration wisely. Each party needs to be heard.
  7. “ Willingness to Resolve”: Address the personal issues that obstruct peace. Issues that personally make you angry tell you something about yourself. At those times, be particularly careful to ensure your objectivity.
  8. “Mapping the Conflict”: Chart needs, concerns, and limitations to reveal the common peace objectives. Encourage each party to share their own needs, fears, values, objectives, limitations and attitudes.
  9. “Development of Options”: Design creative peace solutions together. Each party should contribute to brainstorming ideas and solutions. Do not ignore temporary solutions that address a part of the problem. This is good conflict management while the larger issues are being worked on.
  10. “Introduction to Negotiation”: Plan and apply effective decisions to reach peaceful agreements. Report areas of agreement as well as disagreement. This encourages the problem-solving process to continue.
  11. “Introduction to Mediation”: A third party can help in moving towards peaceful solutions. A mediator can ensure that all sides are heard and fairly represented, and their needs and rights are being met.
  12. “Broadening Perspectives”: Evaluate the problems in the wider concept of peace.

The use of supportive communication can help individuals to feel safe and can increase the possibility that they will not feel threatened to open up about their feelings or viewpoints, which leads to positive communication, and it is possible to address the conflict. Njoku (2006) suggests the dos and don’ts regarding supportive communication.

Use descriptive language to express your feelings Use evaluative language 
Maintain a problem issue orientation Stress personal control of personality traits 
Allow for spontaneity  Pursue strategies perceived as getting your own way
Use empathy to see the other party’s point of view Try to be superior to others 
Stress equality of parties and their right to participate  Express a degree of certainty that makes you appear close-minded

In America, the federal mediation uses an interest-based communication approach to resolve conflict, by following these steps:

  • Identifying the issues: Both parties present their debated issues, and then all parties discuss to clarify the conflict 
  • Defining interests: Both parties provide more information about their interests, questions are asked in order to promote understanding of the expressed points 
  • Brainstorming solutions or options: All parties cooperate by brainstorming ideas on how to satisfy all issues and meet everyone’s interests by selecting one or a combination of the ideas. 
  • Applying criteria: The parties judge the proposed ideas based on the established criteria 
  • Reaching consensus: The parties decide on a solution that accommodates their needs. Although the compromise on this solution, it might not be the optimal choice for each one of them

Njoku, I. A. (2006). The role of communication in conflict resolution. International Journal of Communication, 133-141.