Tag Archives: communication in conflict resolution



Communication is key to dispute resolution


JULY 6, 2015


Have you ever wondered why it’s such a problem to communicate with some people more than others? Do you find yourself avoiding people because you don’t want to deal with them? Well, you are not alone and here’s why….

Robert Fisher, author of Getting to Yes, says it this way: “Poor communication can lead to misunderstanding, unhelpful emotions, distrust, sloppy thinking, and poor outcomes”.

As we look at the process of communication, it seems there is responsibility on both the person speaking and the listener. As speakers, we must communicate a clear message while the listener is responsible for ensuring that he/she clearly understands what is being said.  As listeners, one of the things we can do is try to understand what the other person is thinking or feeling. The use of active listening skills may help you to begin understanding the other person’s message.

Active listening involves two important components: 1) restating what you think you heard and 2) reflecting your understanding of the message back to the speaker. Speakers, on the other hand, may stop periodically and ask if anyone has questions or understands what he/she is communicating.

Another dynamic involved in our daily communications, is our body language or nonverbal language. Rolling our eyes, putting our hands on our hips, raising an eyebrow, smiling, and nodding are all forms of nonverbal communication and have a huge impact on our communications. Being aware of the impact body language has on our communications with others may help us become better communicators.

Some body language is encouraging such as smiling or nodding while others, like putting our hands on our hips or working on another task may be distracting or seem confrontational. “The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said,” observes Peter Drucker.

Communication Style is another factor that impacts our communications with one another. Most of us tend to speak in either a direct or an indirect style. A direct communicator is straightforward in his/her communications; the goal is simply an exchange of information. If you use an indirect form of communication, your listeners may have to read between the lines. If preserving harmony and strengthening the relationship is very important, the use of an indirect communication style can be beneficial.

Direct or indirect communication styles are used in a variety of communication settings. For instance, direct communication is important in an emergency, while indirect communication may be preferred when discussing a sensitive matter. Most of us use both communication styles; however, some of us have a tendency toward one style or the other, and these differences may lead to conflict.

What can you do to improve your communications with others?

Elly Cleaver is MSAC Board Member and a retired Federal Government Alternative Dispute Resolution Specialist.