Following up on my most recent entry, here are some tips from colleagues in response to the question “how did you integrate the skills and concepts of collaboration?”. These tips focus on practicing the communication skills necessary to defuse situations and build understanding.
Most importantly, I made a deliberate decision to incorporate these skills into my life. To do so, I picked a skill to practice each day and used it at least five times in conversation. Monday was open question day and I consciously asked at least five open questions of people I was with, even when I had to force myself to be curious. Tuesday was listening day and I would practice paraphrasing or empathy with whoever I came across. Wednesdays were for pausing‑I deliberately slowed my conversations and paused between sentences to allow room for silence. Over time, I managed to replace my old habits with ones that facilitated understanding and communication.
Raj Dhasi, mediator/trainer/coach
I liken learning conflict resolution skills to learning music. Along the way, we need to develop an “ear” for the skills we want to employ. I developed by ear by picking one skill on each day on which to focus (paraphrasing, empathy, “I” statements, for example.) I not only used these skills myself, but listened and looked for them in conversation, on television, in radio interviews and even when reading a book or newspaper. I forced myself to listen more deeply by writing down examples of the “skill of the day.” Like a musician who develops an ear for various sounds and instruments, this helped me familiarize myself with the skills‑and made it easier to use them in conflict.
Donna Soules, mediator/trainer
Keeping it on the front burner
To keep conflict resolution front and centre in my daily life, I’ve developed an ear for communication skills and an eye for conflict. I listen as top-notch interviewers on radio use questions to deepen understanding. When I observe others in conflict, I use them as case studies to determine where things went off the rails and how communication skills could have been applied. With stress levels in the workplace, I find no shortage of conflict from which to learn.
Clare Connolly, mediator/trainer/coach
Creative ways to practice
To integrate my conflict resolution skills, I practiced continuously. I would pick a skill each week and use it everywhere‑especially with my family. Because they knew me so well, they provided direct and immediate feedback, especially when they didn’t perceive me as genuine (“Did you take another course, Mom?”). I could also tell from their reaction when my skills were becoming more natural. As a break from the intimacy of family, I would turn to the anonymity of television, where I played off soap opera characters to practice my empathy and open questions.
Most importantly, I was willing to jump in and try it. I made a lot of “mistakes,” but was gentle with myself, learned from them and tried again.
Nancy Baker, mediator/trainer/mom
I hope you find these tips helpful in building your communication toolbox. For more tips, see Chapter 15 of The Joy of Conflict Resolution (Tips for the Traveler).