Communication – Conflict Resolution

If you want to bring an end to long-standing conflict, you have to be prepared to compromise. Aung San Suu Kyi

Even best friends sometimes find themselves on opposite sides of a topic. However, it is not usual to have conflict with people who are looking out for the same things. Or is it? When talking about your children and school we usually don’t have a problem with a teacher or a coach. If you are the parent of a child who is receiving special education, you find yourself constantly talking to your child’s special education team.

Communication

Communication is important when trying to resolve a conflict. It is not unusual for an exchange of information not to be effective.  We know that the mechanics of communication is to send a message be it in person, in an email or letter. However it is not just the information contained in the message that is important.  Most of the time there is emotion behind the message or information. This emotion may or may not be clear if the message is in written form. Unless the email is in all caps and then we know that the person sending the email is probably upset.

Effective Speaking

Effective communication can improve your relationships at home, at work and in social situations. Effective communication allows you to share with others the intent of the message, the reason behind your decisions, in other words, why you are doing what you are doing.  Likewise, effective communication will let people know where you are coming from when having to share negative or difficult information.  I have seen many people upset with their friends or partners because the information  shared  was not done in a way that was caring or that did not have regard for the way it was delivered, the place or even the tone.

Listening

Believe me when I tell you, that part of communicating is listening. My youngest daughter learned this the hard way. When she was a young teenager, she would come to me and ask for permission to do something or go somewhere. My husband and I always thought she would become a lawyer because her arguing skills were without par. Her listening skills however, had not fully developed. She would keep talking as I would say: “Sure, just let me know when and who you are going with and if you need a ride.” She would keep talking until she realized she had permission to go already.

Be present in the conversation you are having, show the person you are paying attention in what they are saying, ask questions, listen for the intonation, the message and avoid interruptions. Ask good questions and paraphrase if necessary to ensure the speaker that you are listening to what they are saying.

Verbal Communication

When talking to others there are some things we should keep in mind.

  1. Be friendly, studies show that when people communicate in a soft tone and a warm smile almost always have the edge.
  2. Be yourself – I know many of us don’t like to let people see who we are deep inside, but be true to the meaning behind your words and your intent. Like the kids say today, “Keep it real”.
  3. Think before you speak. – What is it that you want to say and like our moms always said; if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
  4. Be clear – Articulate and avoid mumbling, yelling or over enunciating things to make your point.
  5. Be concise – We are all busy so get to the point. When we talk too much we may distract the listener from the message. What is it that you really want and what is the clearest way to get to the point?

Conflict Resolution

Most of us have had a conflict at one time or another in our life.  I went to the dictionary to make sure we were all looking at the same definition of conflict before we tried to look at ways to resolve conflicts we might have.

Merriam-Webster has a simple definition of conflict as

  • : a struggle for power, property, etc.
  • : strong disagreement between people, groups, etc., that results in often angry argument
  • : a difference that prevents agreement : disagreement between ideas, feelings, etc.

Conflict resolution is a way for two or more parties to find a peaceful resolution to a disagreement among them.  Communication is an important part of conflict resolution. When looking at the goals of conflict resolution we want to make sure that:

  • You have a solution all parties can agree to
  • You work quickly to find the best solution
  • You want to improve on the relationship within the group.

When advocating for your child you want to remember that you are working within a team. You may have a disagreement with one or more members of the team, but the focus has to remain the well-being of the child. You are in conflict because something is not working for your child.

There are steps we can take when we want to negotiate to resolve a conflict.

  1. What is the conflict?
  2. Why is it a conflict?
  3. Are there any solutions you can suggest?
  4. Are the solutions the team can suggest?
  5. Do we need to look for other alternatives?
  6. Can I live with the solution even though it was not my preferred outcome?

As a parent of a child with special needs, I find myself constantly questioning if a situation, a goal, a resource is the one my child needs. Even now that my daughter is no longer in school I meet with her job coach, her resource coordinator, doctors, therapists and ask about the services she is receiving.

In a perfect world, there would be no conflict or disagreement, but we live in a far from perfect world.  By using conflict resolution techniques successfully, it will help us to build a good working relationship with our team members, but also lays the foundation for other negotiations as you advocate for your loved one.


Resources


Luz Adriana

My name is Luz Adriana Martinez and for the past 27 years I have been working in the field of advocacy for children with disabilities. I hold an MBA from the University of Phoenix and a BA from the Inter-American University of Puerto Rico. I'm married to a great guy, Tito, an Army Veteran of 22 years, who supports all the crazy things I do. Being an Army wife also prepared us to be always on the move and without daddy for long periods of time. This also gave me the opportunity work and volunteer with organizations whose mission was to assist other military families. This blog results from my desire to give back to the many families that have given me and mine so much. I have had the fortune to be able to travel the world assisting military families and now that that stage of my life is over, I want to continue to share what I have learned in the hopes that I can still provide some information and resources to families who need it.

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