Wed | May 27, 2020

Conflict Resolution Corner | Communication is key

Published:Wednesday | March 15, 2017 | 12:00 AM

Welcome to another instalment of the Dispute Resolution Foundation (DRF) School Intervention Programme (SIP), Conflict Resolution Corner. This will run over six weeks as we provide tips on dealing with conflict, particularly among children.

"Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless."

- Mother Teresa


Last week, we looked at affirmation and its importance to conflict resolution, and I hope you have been practising self-affirmation as well as affirming others.

This week, we will be looking at another core value for effective conflict resolution and this core value is communication.


What is communication?


Communication is more than an exchange of information as is normally explained as "the act of sending and receiving of information".

Robert McCloskey is quoted as saying: "I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realise that what you heard is not what I meant!"

I would therefore say that communication is the process by which information is transferred between individuals in such a way that they understand the emotions and intentions behind the information being conveyed, as well as listening in a way that enables them to gain the full meaning of what's being transmitted while feeling heard, respected, and understood.


Why is communication important to conflict resolution?


Communication is a very important part of living. We communicate to express our values, thoughts and opinions. How we communicate can determine the outcome of our situations.

Using ineffective means of communicating, for example, by shouting, stamping the feet, rolling the eyes and/or insulting someone will lead to negative feelings and create more anger and hostility. In order to avoid starting or escalating a conflict, one must be conscious of their tone, body language and the actual words they speak.

Can you imagine calling your friend and he or she answered by shouting, stamping his or her feet and hand akimbo. What would this do to the relationship? Wouldn't this form of communication be more likely to cause a conflict than eliminating or avoiding one?

Regardless of our best effort, (whether through writing or orally), what we want to communicate at times gets lost in the translation. We say one thing, the other person hears/reads another. As a result, frustration, misunderstandings and conflicts ensue.

That is why it is important to note that listening without judging, empathising with the other party, avoiding criticism/blame, using I messages and being aware and appreciative of each other's differences are key components in resolving conflicts.

Below are some pointers for effective communication, and when we are effective communicators, we will be able to understand the emotion and intent behind the information being transmitted.


Communication tips


- Use body language to convey positive feelings

- Avoid negative body language

- Effective communication is always about understanding the other person, not about winning an argument or forcing your opinions on others.

- Remember that different perceptions do not mean either of us is wrong


Bad communication/ listening habits


- Interrupting often or try to finish the other person's sentences

- Jumping to conclusions.

- Often overly parental and answering with advice, even when not requested.

- Making up your mind before having all the information

- Losing your temper when hearing things you don't agree with.

- Trying to change the subject to something that relates to your own experiences.

- Thinking more about your reply while the other person is speaking than focusing on what he or she is saying.

Source: Garber, Peter. 50 Communications Activities, Icebreakers, and Exercises.


"A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger." Proverbs 15:1

- Sandria Watkis-Madden is a youth peace facilitator/mediator based at the Dispute Resolution Foundation (DRF), head of the DRF School Intervention Programme in Clarendon. Feedback: or, or,