Friday, 05 January 2018 22:32

NEW for 2018- The Science of Conflict Management

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Happy New Year!


2018 is getting off to a great start. I am excited to share that this year I will be ramping up the Blog to include more helpful information about the science of conflict management.


The science of conflict management is something I've been exploring more and more and in particular the past 5 years. It really comes down to the models, the processes, and the systems we can set up in our lives at work or at home to use consistently when we are faced with conflict in our interpersonal relationships.


The science really begins with our thinking right down to our identity, self concept and what we believe about ourselves, others and our relationships. Emotional intelligence plays a huge role and how we manage the conflict in our lives on a daily basis.


At the heart of conflict management is communication. Communication includes a number of principles and misconceptions. Before we start to look at the qualities and skills we can possess with effectively managing conflict it's important to Define what communication is, what it does, and what it can accomplish.


The following list shows you communication principles:

  1. Communication can be unintentional or intentional-  Some communication is clearly intentional. you plan your words carefully before asking for a big favor or offering criticism. Some theorists argue that only intentional messages like these qualify as communication.  Others hold that even unintentional behavior is communicative.  as you start to learn about the science of conflict management it's important to recognize that communication is both unintentional or intentional but we are always communicating. It is widely known that 90% of what we say is what we don't say and is presented through our body language.

  2. Communication is irreversible-  at times we've all said something we immediately regretted and wished the words could have been erased. It's impossible.  We cannot turn back time. While an apology can soften hurt feelings, or further explanation can clear up a misunderstanding, the impression you've created cannot be erased it is no more possible to unreceive a message then to unsqueeze the tube of toothpaste. Words said and deeds done are irreversible.

  3. It's impossible not to communicate-  many theorists agree it is impossible not to communicate because whatever you do whether you speak or remain silent can front or avoid you provide others with information about your thoughts and feelings in this sense we are like transmitters that cannot be shut off we constantly send message this explains why the best way to enhance understanding is to discuss your intentions and your interpretations of the other person's behavior until you have negotiated a shared meaning. Meaning is much deeper than understanding. This is where our field of conflict management needs to really dive into the science behind the who, what, when, where, and how of what we communicate based on the meaning we are hopeful to be projecting. It comes down to our identity, self concept, and self-esteem.

  4. Communication is unrepeatable-  Bottom line, communication is an ongoing process. It is impossible to repeat an event. A certain smile that worked well when you met a stranger last week might not work with the one you encounter tomorrow. It might feel stale or be inappropriate for a different person or occasion. Even with the same person you cannot recreate an event. Why? Because you both lived longer and the behavior isn't original. Your feelings about each other may have changed. You need not constantly invent new ways to act around familiar people but realize that the same words and behaviors are different each time they are spoken or performed.

  5. Communication has a content and a relational dimension-  practically all exchanges operate on two levels: the content level and the relational level. This is also true for when we are emailing and texting. How many of you have either sent or received a text message with all caps and exclamation marks and knew what that meant?  the content Dimension involves the information being explicitly discussed. The content of “turn left at the next corner” or “you can buy that for less online” is obvious. The relational dimension expresses how the parties feel toward one another. Imagine for example two ways of saying “it's your turn to do the dishes”. One that is demanding and the other that is matter of fact. The different tones of voice can send very different relational messages. Again this comes down to the interpretation and the shared meaning.  Even though you may have a different tone you are projecting in this example where you are sounding demanding, the other piece of this is how the person who you are talking to is interpreting the content.  I cannot stress enough how the science of conflict management plays such an important role with how we create meaning with the world around us.


The following list shows you communication misconceptions:

  1. More communication is always better-  Although not communicating enough can cause problems there are also situations where too much communication is a mistake. Excessive communication can be unproductive, like when two people talk a problem situation to death but still have no solution.

  2. Meanings are in words-  It's a big mistake to assume that saying something is the same thing as communicating it. The words make perfect sense to you but can't be interpreted in an entirely different way by others. For example, I remember telling someone how much I enjoy painting at the ranch. The other person asked me what rooms I was painting, if I was going with a color scheme, or was it more outdoors painting on the barn, fencing, and decks. I responded with how I was talking about artistic painting on a canvas, and how I enjoy painting with acrylics after having taken a course, and painting only with oil for a number of years.

  3. Successful communication always involves shared understanding-  There are times when successful communication comes from not completely understanding one another. Some research shows satisfying relationships depend in part on flawed understanding. For example, couples who think their partners understand them are more satisfied with each other than those who actually understand what the other person says and means. I jokingly think about how my husband is Mr. Smile n’ Nod sometimes when I am talking about work.

  4. A single person or event causes another's reaction- Thinking any single thing we say or do causes a particular outcome is inaccurate. Many factors affect how others will react to your communication.  for example, if you lose your temper and say something to a friend you immediately regret, your friend's reaction depends on a host of events besides your unjustified remark. These may include your friend’s frame of mind at the moment, elements of your friend’s personality, your relational history, and so forth. Not any one event occurs in a vacuum.

  5. Communication can solve all problems-  Sometimes even the best planned, best timed communication won't solve a problem. For example, imagine a time when you were in school. Imagine asking an instructor to explain why you received a poor grade on a project you believe you deserve top marks for completing. The instructor outlines the reasons for your low-grade and sticks to that position after listening to you carefully. Has communication solved the problem? Hardly.


Going forward in 2018, you can expect my blog posts will include scientific information about the concepts, the models, and the systems I use in my training, our courses, keynote speaking events, and when I provide consulting services to workplaces.

My intentions and meaning for sharing the science of conflict management with you this year is to normalize conflict. Conflict is a normal experience in our daily lives. We often spend a lot of time figuring out how we can avoid a problem situation rather than what solutions we can come up with for the problem situation.


Thank you for taking the time to read this post. I wish you, and those you love, all the best of peace, love, and happiness in 2018.


God bless,


Read 823 times Last modified on Friday, 05 January 2018 22:45
Suzanne Marie

Published Author, Academic Professor, Researcher, Course Writer, and Subject Matter Expert for Conflict Management in Canada.


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