From how the media frames modern day conflicts in the news to how we relate to each other on a daily basis, communication plays an integral role in conflicts and their resolution.
Students in Conflict Resolution Studies at Menno Simons College (MSC) learn about different communication techniques in a first-year introductory course and later have an opportunity to refine their communication skills in the course Conflict and Communication.
“Introduction to Conflict Resolution is a great opportunity to go over a variety of different kinds of conflict resolution techniques and it introduces students to the world of peace and justice. It’s a kind of framework for peacebuilding. But you don’t have much opportunity to [delve] deeper,” says MSC instructor Jodi Dueck-Read, who taught Conflict and Communication in 2015.
“You learn about constructive complaints in [Introduction to Conflict Resolution], you learn about defensive behaviours in conflict as well, but this course gives the opportunity to practice constructive complaints in a variety of different ways and practice non-defensive communication, creating a supportive conflict environment.”
How we communicate with one another impacts how information and ideas are received and understood. From basic interactions to high-level negotiations, our words and body language can either cause conflict, or resolve issues—it all depends on how we communicate.
“I think that communication is vital for working through conflict. Communication is part of what makes conflict and conflict resolution,” Dueck-Read says.
How we communicate is determined by a variety of factors, from personality to how we grew up. Our worldviews shape our conflict styles and our communication approaches.
“Culture immensely impacts communication. From your own personal culture to where you are raised, how you’re raised, your family, to the environments you’re used to interacting in, to your socio-economic status—all of these things impact how you communicate and react to conflict.”
One of the main teachings in the Conflict and Communication course is how to respond, not just react. Students actively engage in non-defensive communication and group exercises that focus on healthy conflict responses.
In order to create a classroom setting that welcomes this kind of learning, Dueck-Read is intentional about the tone she sets for each lesson.
“I want to model a type of communication where I’m open to how students are reacting to or receiving the information, so that often means leaving time and space for questions,” she says. “We create a very relational atmosphere, because I think that’s an important part of willingness to talk about conflict—that being able to relate one to another.”
One of the enduring ways in which we speak to and relate to one another is through storytelling, highlighting the importance of learning about communication and its impact on a conflict’s trajectory.
“Our stories are really important. They frame who we think we are and who we say we are and how we want to be,” says Dueck-Read. “That’s an inherent part of conflict resolution—being able to tell stories.”
In Conflict and Communication, students will learn how to tell their stories in ways that enhance healthy relationships and prevent and resolve conflict in daily life.
Katrina Sklepowich (MSC '12, CRS 4–year) was an intern with CMU and MSC in April 2016
Conflict and Communication is offered in both Fall and Winter 2016-17. View the Fall-Winter Conflict Resolution Studies timetable.