Peaceful Solutions Thirteen/WNET
Thirteen ed online
Navigation Strategy
Poor communication is a key factor in destructive conflict. Accusatory statements, defensive or inflammatory language, and unwillingness to listen can provoke conflicts and fuel them once they are underway. On the other hand, when there is good communication, conflicts can be resolved peacefully, collaboratively, and without rancor. Like other social skills, communication skills can be taught and learned, and they improve with practice. They are the cornerstone of all training in constructive conflict resolution.

Video Summary
At Roosevelt Middle School in Oceanside, California, trainers from the Resolving Conflict Creatively Program (RCCP) model good communication skills and help students practice these skills through role-playing and other exercises. Students learn to use communication skills in the process of collaborative conflict resolution, to reach win-win solutions that meet the needs of all parties.
What is Facing History?
Communication skills encompass a variety of strategies and techniques that aid interpersonal interaction. Using good communication skills is not a matter of simply being "nice." Rather, communicating well facilitates information-sharing, perspective-taking, and genuine understanding. When communication flows well, conflict is more likely to be resolved in a collaborative fashion, rather than escalating to destructive levels. Key elements of effective communication are:

Active Listening
Active listeners:
  • encourage the speaker with nonverbal cues, such as facial expressions, gestures, and verbalizations.
  • check for understanding by asking questions such as "What did you mean . . . " or "Could you tell me more?" They also restate in their own words what the speaker said.
  • "reflect back" the speaker's feelings, saying things like "It sounds like you're really upset." Only when feelings are acknowledged will the speaker feel heard and understood.
"I" Messages
"I" messages are a way of saying how you feel without attacking or blaming. "I" messages help to de-escalate conflicts and facilitate constructive dialogue and problem-solving. Here is an example of the difference between a "you" message and an "I" message:

"You" message: "You selfish jerk! You think the TV belongs to you. Well, it's my turn now."

"I" message: "I feel annoyed when you switch the channel without asking. I want to be able to watch my show all the way through." (For more on "I" messages, see "An 'I' Message Has Three Basic Parts".)

Win-Win Solutions
Win-win resolutions of conflicts are those in which the needs of all parties are satisfied. They stand in contrast to win-lose resolutions, in which a conflict is seen as a zero-sum game where one party's gain is another's loss. To arrive at a win-win resolution requires clear communication and collaborative negotiation.


Activities for Students


One


With a student volunteer or another adult, first demonstrate poor listening and then good, active listening. For poor listening, look away; fiddle with paper or pencil; interrupt; change the subject; and so on. For good listening, model the skills described above. After each demo, ask students to tell you what they noticed. Help them identify and understand what behaviors are involved in poor listening and good listening. Then give students an opportunity to practice active listening. Have them pair off and take turns talking and listening about a nonthreatening topic such as "Something I Am Proud Of" or "My Favorite Holiday and Why I Love It." Give each person about three or four minutes to speak. When both members of each pair have had a chance to speak, ask students how it felt to listen and be listened to.


TWO


Students can practice constructing "I" messages in response to these situations. For further practice, have them think of other situations and then respond with "I" messages.

  • Carla saw Heather with her arm around Carla's boyfriend Greg. What could Carla say to Heather, using an "I" message? To Greg?
  • Will wants to copy Mike's homework. Mike wants to say no, even though he let Will copy his work once before. What can Mike say to Will, using an "I" message?


THREE


Role playing allows students to "try on" and practice skills. Ask students to work in groups of three or four to develop a role-play situation involving a conflict. They or other students can then role-play a constructive interaction between the characters. Ideas for role-play themes:

  • boyfriend-girlfriend issues: e.g., jealousy
  • property issues: e.g., property borrowed without asking first
  • turf issues: e.g., sharing a room or a locker
  • friendship issues: e.g., gossip and rumors
  • parent-child issues: e.g., disapproval of the child's friends

Rules for Academic Controversy

When people negotiate their conflicts collaboratively, they use these four main steps:

1. Pick a good time and place to talk. This can mean waiting until tempers have cooled, or choosing neutral turf on which to talk.

2. Talk it out. Each party states his or her position and talks about his or her needs, using active listening to try to learn how the other party sees the situation. The parties reframe the conflict as a problem to be solved, one that incorporates both party's needs.

3. Brainstorm for solutions. Together, the parties come up with as many ideas as they can for resolving the conflict.

4. Choose a solution. The parties choose a solution that meets their needs and to which they can both agree. They test it out; if it doesn't work, they try another solution.




An "I" message has three basic parts:

* "I feel . . ."
Tell how you feel. Follow "I feel" with a feeling word: "I feel disappointed"

* "when you . . ."
Tell what caused the feeling. "I feel disappointed when you cancel our plans at the last minute."

* "I want . . . "
Tell what you want to happen: "I feel disappointed when you cancel our plans at the last minute. I want you to let me know earlier if you can't make it."

"I" messages can include a fourth part, a "because" section: "I feel disappointed when you cancel our plans at the last minute because then I'm left on my own, and it's too late to plan something else. I want you to let me know earlier if you can't make it." Caution: It's easy to add blame to the "because" statement; e.g., "I feel disappointed when you cancel our plans at the last minute, because that's a really rotten thing to do."



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