Communication Skills for Resolving Conflicts through Collaboration

Communication Skills for Resolving Conflicts through Collaboration

One person usually initiates a conflict, and the other person responds to it. Whether you initiate or respond to conflict, you can practice collaboration by using specific communication skills and verbal strategies. In this section, we will consider how to initiate conflict and how to respond to conflicts initiated by others.

Initiating Conflict Appropriately

Many people avoid conflict because they do not know how to initiate a conflict conversation effectively. The following guidelines (as well as those for responding to conflict in the next section) are based on work from several fields of study (Adler 1977; Gordon 1970; Whet ten & Cameron, 1998) and will help you initiate conflict in a way that reduces defensiveness and invites collaboration.

1. State ownership of the apparent problem. If you are trying to study for a test in your most difficult course and the person next door is playing her stereo so

loud that your walls are shaking and you can’t concentrate, it is important to acknowledge that you are the one who is angry, hurt, or frustrated. Thus to resolve your problem, you decide to confront your neighbor. You show ownership if you say something like, “Hi, I’m having a problem that I need your help with. I’m trying to study for a midterm in my most difficult class

2. Describe the potential conflict in terms of the behavior you observe, the consequences, and your feelings about it. The behavior, consequences, and feelings framework means that when a behavior happens, consequences result, feel a certain way (Gordon 1971). It is important to include all three of these steps for the other person to fully understand the issue. This framework requires you to describe for the other person what you see or hear, what happens to you as a result, and what feeling you experience. This approach use; the skills of owning feelings, describing behavior, and describing feelings-all skills that we discussed earlier.

In the. example of the loud stereo, you might follow up on the opening by saying; (B) “When I hear your stereo, (C) I get distracted and can’t concentrate, which makes it even harder for me to study, (F) and then I get frustrated and- annoyed.

Let’s review this. The loudness of the stereo is the behavior (B) you observe that has consequences. I get distracted and can’t concentrate, which makes it even harder for me to ‘study are the consequences (C) that result from this behavior. I get frustrated and annoyed are the feelings (F) that you experience.

3. Avoid letting the other person change the subject. When you approached your neighbor about the stereo, suppose she said, “Oh come on, everyone plays their stereos in this neighborhood. Don’t let yourself get into about “everybody.’ Get back to the point by understand it’s a noisy neighborhood and loud music normally doesn’t bother me. But I’m having a problem right now, and I hoping you could help me.” . Rejoice how gets the focus back on the problem that you are having.

4. Phrase your solution in a way that focuses on common ground. Once you have heck cloudburst suggest your solution. Your solution is more likely to be accepted if you can tie it to a shared value, common interest, or shared constraint. In our example, you might say, “I think we both have had times when even little things get in the way of our being able to study. So even though I realize I’m asking you for a special favor, I hope you can help me out by turning down your stereo while I’m grinding through this material.” In short, the better you are at initiating conflict appropriately, the more likely you will get a beneficial outcome.

5 Think through what you will say before you confront the other person, so the of your request will be brief and precise. Perhaps the greatest problem most of us have with initiating conflict is that we have good intentions of keeping on track but our emotions get the best of us and either we say things we shouldn’t or we go on and on and annoy the other person.

Before You go charging over to your neighbor’s room., think yourself, I basing to say?” Take a minute to practice. Say to yourself,problem and then follow the f formula. Then prat: ice l few statements until you think ice can it when your neighbor come’ to the door

Responding to Conflict Effectively

It is more difficult to respond effectively to a potential conflict than to initiate one because it is easy to become defensive if the person does not initiate the conflict effectively. If the initiator phrases the problem appropriately, “I’m having a problem that I need your help with,” most likely you would say something like, “I’m sorry, I know what you mean. I didn’t even think that my stereo might be bother anyone. Here, I’ll turn it down.” With this response, the is immediately resolved.

But not all initiators will understand the problem, behavior, consequences feelings approach to initiating conflict, and you may well face a situation that will require great skill.

1. Disengage. rut your emotional “shields up. when the Enterprise is about to be attacked or bus just been upon, Star that the Captain shouts, Shields up” With its shields in place, the hip is somewhat protected from enemy fire, and the Captain and crew are  problem solve

We also need to learn to mentally put our shields up when someone becomes overly aggressive in initiating a conflict. Placing an emotional barrier between us gives us rime to disengage emotionally so we can retain our problem-solving ability. So, put those shields up and while you are “counting to ten,” think of how to turn this into a problem-solving session.

2. Listen to nonverbal cues as well as to the verbal message.Just as in every other kind of interpersonal communication, listening is fundamental to resolving conflict. As Allan Bar sky (2000, p. 77) points out, “you must not only listen, but ensure that the other parties know that you are listening and understanding them.” But your listening must involve awareness of nonverbal cues as well as verbal messages, for as Berger argued (1994), failure to fortuitous the nonverbal communication is to “doom oneself to • t study the tip of a very large iceberg” (p. 493).

Infant, Racer, and Jordan (1996) found that the people they studied recognized that behaviors such as smiling, pleasant facial expression, relaxed body posture, and a warm and sincere voice are more likely to keep conflict from occurring or from escalating hath a teleprocessing face, grinding teeth, stern/staring eyes, clenched fists, and a loud voice (p. 322). Let’s say, however, that you are faced with the conflict initiator who says to you, “Turn down that damn radio. Even an idiot would realize that playing it at top volume is likely to tee off someone who is trying to study. In addition to the harsh words, you are also likely to see and hear several affirming nonverbal behaviors.

earning from Conflict-Management failures

Ideally, you want to resolve conflicts as they occur. Nevertheless, there will be times when no matter how hard both persons try, they will not be able to resolve the conflict.

things go wrong?” “Did one or more of us become evaluative?” Did 1 use a style that was inappropriate to the situation?” Did we fail to implement the problem solving method adequately?” Were the vested interests in the outcome too great?” Am I failing co use such basic communication skills as paraphrasing, describing feelings, and perception checking?” Did I fall back on what Turk and Monacan (1999, p. 232) label ‘repetitive non-optimal behaviors’ verbal abuse, ‘dishonest replies, or sarcasm automatically when I became angry?” By taking time to analyze your behavior, you put yourself in a better position to act more successfully in the next conflict episode you experience. Conflict is inevitable you can count on having opportunities to use this knowledge again.

Conversation and Analysis

Use your Communicate! CD-ROM to access a video scenario of the following
conversation. Click on the “Communicate! In Action” feature, and then click
on “Jan and Ken. As you watch Jan and Ken’s conversation, focus on how
the nature of their relationship influences their interaction.

1. What does each person do to help maintain the relationship?

2. How does each person handle this conflict?

3. How well does each person listen t-o the other?

4. Are Jan and Ken appropriately assertive?

5. Notice how well each provides feedback and describes feelings?

We have provided a transcript of  and Ken’s conversation. After you have viewed the conversation on your CD-ROM, read the transcript. In the right-hand column there is space for you’re record your analysis. You can also complete your analysis electronically using the Conversational Analysis feature included in Communicate!In Action. From ‘the Conversation Menu on your CD-ROM, click “Analysis” for Jan and Ken. Type your answers to the questions above in the forms provided. Then you are finish: crick “Submit” to compare your response to the analysis provided :authors.


Ken: Jan, we need to talk. Why’d you tell Shannon about what happened between Katie and me? Now Shannon doesn’t want to talk to me.

Jan: (silence for a moment as she realizes he knows) Ken, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to tell her. t just kind of slipped out often we were talking.

Ken: Sorry? Sorry is not enough. I told you that in private and you promised that you’d keep it just between you and me.

Jan: Ken, I told her that long before the two of you started daring, You know, Shibboleth and I, we’ve been friends for a long time. We were just talking about guys and cheating and stuff. It Wasn’t about guys specifically,

Ken: It wasn’t about me? It was totally about me. You had no right to tell anyone that, under any circumstances Now Shannon doesn’t trust me. She thinks I’m a lowlife that sleeps around.

Jan: Well, I’m sorry, but the two of you weren’t even dating, yet

Ken: Oh, that’s irrelevant. You know it would be irrelevant even if Shannon and I weren’t dating. But you know, the point is I thought I could trust you and tell you anything and that it would go no-further.

Jan: Yeah, like the time I told you I was thinking about dropping out of school for a semester and you just happened to tell my dad?

Ken: Ah, that’s not the same thing.

Jan: YO’l kn~w what. it’s exactly the sane. j trusted you and squealed  big time. should have never known I was thinking about that. I trusted you, and you betrayed me

Ken: Well look, I was just trying to look out for you. I knew you were making a big mistake and I was’just trying to stop you. And besides, you know I was right! (gets discouraged) Don’t change the subject, here. Are you saying that you telling Shannon is some sort of payback for me telling your dad?

Jan: No, I’m just trying to point out that you’ve got no right to throw stones?

Ken: You know what? Then maybe neither of us can trust the other. Maybe we just shouldn’t tell each other anything that we don’t want broadcast to the world, huh?

Jan: Don’t be such a jerk. I’m sorry, OK?

Ken: Well, that’s not good enough. You ruined any chance I had with her.

Jan: Are you saying that something I said about what you did a long time ago is ruining your chances?

Ken: Yeah, it might.

Jan: Ken, if she truly valued your friendship, something that you did a long time ago shouldn’t matter.

Ken: Well, maybe you’re right.

Jan: Look, I said I’m sorry and I meant it. I’m also sorry about, you. know, throwing in what you told my dad. I know that wasn’t fair, but you know, you really hurt my feelings when you blew up at me like that.

.Ken: Listen, listen, I shouldn’t have, I ‘shouldn’t have told your dad. I should , have probably encouraged you to talk to him. friends?

Summary Communicating in Relationships  

Interpersonal communication helps develop and maintain relationships. A good relationship is any mutually satisfying interaction with another person. We have three types of relationships. Acquaintances are people we know by name and talk with, but with whom our interactions are limited in quality and quantity. Friendships arc marked by degrees of warmth and affection, trust, self-disclosure, commitment, and expectation that the relationship will endure. Close or intimate friends are those with whom we share our deepest feelings,  spend a lot of time, or mark the relationship in some special way. The life cycle of a relationship includes starting or building, stabilizing, and ending. In the starting or building stage, people strike up a conversation, keep conversations going, and move to more intimate levels. People nurture relationships through the skills of describing, openness; tentativeness, and equality. Many ‘it.

relationships end. We may terminate them in inter personally sound  or in ways that destroy our chances to continue the relationship on any meaningful level. The Johanna window is a cool for examining the ratio of openness to doggedness in a relationship. Many people develop relationships on the Internet through coatrooms and email. Electronically mediated relationships may be subject to anonymity and  dishonesty. Addiction to the Internet can disrupt relationships. Two theories are especially useful for explaining the dynamics of relationships. Schultz sees relationships in terms of the ability to meet the interpersonal needs of affection, inclusion, and control. Toshiba and Kelley see relationships as exchanges: People evaluate relationships through a reward/cost analysis, weighing energy, time, and money invested against satisfaction gained . A primary factor leading to termination of a relationship is failure to manage conflict successfully. We cope with conflicts in a variety of ways: withdrawing, accommodating, forcing, compromising, and collaborating. When we are concord about the When you have a problem with a person, initiate the conflict using basic communication skills. Own the problem; describe the basis of the conflict in terms of behavior, consequences, and feelings plan what you will say ahead of time; avoid evaluating the other person’s motives; and phrase your request so that it focuses on common ground. When responding to another person’s problem, watch for nonverbal cues, puty shields up, respond emphatically with genuine interest and concern, paraphrase your understanding of the problem, seek common ground, and ask the per so to suggest alternatives.

Finally, learn from conflict-management failures.