Minimizing Conflict with Effective Communication


By Linda Ziac

November 8, 2018

The Caregiver Resource Center



Mastering Effective Communication & Conflict Resolution



“A pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.”    - Winston Churchill



A day doesn’t go by that we pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV, to see report after report of people unable or unwilling to discuss a disagreement and work together to find a solution. 


It seems lately that everyone wants to be seen as being right, regardless of the long term cost.





“I know you believe that you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”


With each passing day, it seems ever more important for each of us to look at our commun-ication style and determine how we can better express ourselves while making a concerted effort to listen to other people’s point of view.





Communication is “the largest single factor in what kind of relationships we have with others and what happens to us in the world.”   - Virginia Satier


Communication is a 2-way process involving a sender and a receiver, with the exchange of opinions, news and information by means of writing, speech or with gestures including body language and facial reactions.





•  Noise


•  Assumptions and misconceptions


•  Emotions


•  Language differences


•  Cultural differences


•  Poor listening skills


•  Distractions





For effective communication to take place, a person must not only be engaged in hearing, but listening as well.


Hearing  - Hearing is a passive process of the body and the act of perceiving sound by the ear.


Listening - Listening not only involves hearing, but also requires a conscious act of concentration so that your brain processes meaning from words and sentences that is heard.





Reflective Listening is the practiced skill of listening carefully to what another person has to say, and repeating back to that person the message that you heard, for the purpose of correcting any inaccuracies or misunderstandings that you may have.







•  Let the speaker express their point of view without being interrupted


•  Show that you are paying attention and that you are interested in what is being said


•  Take the time to restate in your own words what you heard the person say.


•  If you aren’t sure that you understand something that was said, ask the person to say it again





•  Tune out, play with your phone, or start planning in your mind what you want to say next


•  Interrupt what the person is saying, object to a point made, or correct the person based on your own opinion


•  Convey signals that you are bored or in a hurry to say something


•  Crack jokes, be sarcastic or put down what the person has said



REMEMBER - Everyone is entitled to their opinion and beliefs; which does not mean they are right or wrong.





Communication includes both verbal, non-verbal , written and visual objects.


•  Verbal Communication -  includes face-to-face interactions, television, radio telephone, or other types of media


•  Non-Verbal Communication  - includes body language, gestures, how we dress, and our actions


•  Written Communication – includes books, magazines, emails, texts, the Internet and other types of media


•  Visual Information – photos, logos, charts, graphs, commercials, and other types of media



REMEMBER - How we say something, is just as important as the words we use!





What are you communicating to the other person(s)?


•  Support


•  Understanding


•  A willingness to work together to find a solution


•  Anger


•  Frustration


•  Resentment



REMEMBER - You are communicating even without saying a word!





Good communication styles - involve listening carefully to the other person and to your own responses.


Poor communication styles  - tend to be one sided.





Take a few minutes to ask yourself the following questions about your communication style.


Review each question noting a “yes” if the statement matches your communication style, or a “no” if the if the statement does not match your communication style.


1.  When there’s an argument, I get tough so my opponent will back down sooner.


2.  I don’t have to spell out procedures. People are smart enough to figure out what I want them to do.


3.  I expect people to know when I’m speaking confidentially.


4.  I may not always know the answer, but I feel it’s my responsibility to act like I do.


5.  If I sound more technical, it will give me more credibility.


6.  Sometimes I know the answer to a problem, but I believe it’s better to let the person figure it out on his or her own.


7.  In conversations, I use my eyes as well as my ears to listen.


8.  If I don’t know what to say, I say nothing.


9.  I pay attention to how I’m coming across and how the other person is responding, so that I may improve my communication skills.


10.  When I’m listening to someone, I take mental notes and ask lots of questions.





Every situation is different, and as such, a person may respond differently based on the person(s) involved, specific situation, emotions, as well as what is the perceived as the potential gain or loss.


When conflicts arise, as they inevitably do, most people will use one of the following five approaches to help restore harmony.



Which approach do you feel most comfortable using?


1.  Avoidance - It’s not that big of a problem. Why rock the boat?


2.  Accommodation - I’m willing to give up a lot to end this conflict.


3.  Aggression - Every conflict has a winner and a loser. I intend to be the winner.


4.  Compromise - I’ll give a little if you’ll give a little.


5.  Problem Solving - If we discuss this openly, we can find a solution that benefits everyone.



Often we use different methods of conflict resolution for different people. Who are some of the people you might have conflicts with? How do you usually respond when conflicts arise with these people?


What if you tried the problem solving approach with all of them? If you were confident of your problem solving skills, would you be willing to try it with more people?



Conflicts seldom go away by themselves.


They require open, clear, deliberate communication if they’re going to be resolved.


Often a conflict evaporates when the different points of view get a chance to be heard in a calm setting.





• Ask yourself what it is you don't know yet.


Sometimes, our perspective on a conflict can be very different from the other person's view.


This means that what one person sees as critical to the conflict may not be all that important to the other(s) involved.


Understanding the other person's perspective and attitude about the problem can affect how it’s addressed and resolved.


• Once you get angry or upset, it's easy to perceive that other person meant to make you feel miserable.


Try not to make assumptions about what the other person’s intentions are. Doing so may prevent you from reaching any kind of an agreement or resolution.


• Spend as much time listening as you do talking.


If you focus on really hearing what the other person is trying to say, you can learn new things about yourself and how others may perceive you.


This step can be essential in resolving the dispute, because you may not be aware that others may think you're responsible for the problem at hand.


• Avoid blaming or shaming others. Instead, try and focus on expressing your feelings in a way that facilitates the process of achieving an outcome that’s a win-win.


Try and let others know how you feel without putting them on the defensive by using "I" statements.


The most basic form of an "I" statement includes a feeling followed by the action that lead up to it and the resulting consequence.


Example: I felt angry when you didn’t support my idea in today’s meeting.  I felt unsupported and out on a limb alone.”


• Try and be clear, straightforward and concrete in your communication.


One way you can do this is to give specific examples of what you've seen, heard, and experienced; which have contributed to your perspective on the conflict.


Each person needs a chance to talk about what is important to them, how they feel, and what they need to get out of the situation.


• Maintain contact with the other person, no matter how you’re feeling.


It’s important that you make every effort to keep the communication lines open with those you're in disagreement with.


You may want to do something small for them that will meet one of their needs. If both people work to fulfill one of the other's wishes, this will help foster an attitude of positive change in the relationship.


• Look for the needs and interests that lie behind concrete positions.


Behind every dispute, there are people who have certain needs that aren't being met, or feel that they are being unsupported, bullied or abused in some way.


Try and make sure you're aware of your own needs as well as those of others. In addition, be sure to show honest concern about and understanding for the other person's feelings and needs.


• Take a "time-out" if things get too intense. When you get too angry, you lose your ability to listen and to think logically and rationally about a problem. Therefore, its best if you take a break to cool down.


It’s important however, to not let too much time pass before resuming a conversation on the topic(s).


• Make it easy for the other person to be constructive. Try and show them that you care about the things that are important to them by taking responsibility for what you've said and done that has contributed to the problem in some way.


• Work to develop your ability to look at the conflict from all sides.


Take note of the things said and done that added to, as well as lessened the conflict.


Taking stock of these things enables you to learn from your mistakes and thus deal with conflict more effectively in the future.


It’s also important to test your point of view of the problem by getting feedback from someone that you trust who is neutral.


Keep in mind, that when you realize that a conflict is developing with another person, it’s important to make a concerted effort to talk about it as soon as possible, to prevent a small disagreement from developing into a much larger dispute.



Photo from Microsoft



The information in this article is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. This information is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient provider relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment.


Please consult your health care provider for an appointment, before making any healthcare decisions or for guidance about a specific medical condition.




Linda Ziac is the owner and founder of The Caregiver Resource Center. The Caregiver Resource Center is a division of Employee Assistance Professionals, Inc. which Linda founded in October 1990. The Caregiver Resource Center provides a spectrum of concierge case management and advocacy services for seniors, people with special needs and families.


Linda’s professional career spans more than 40 years in the health and mental health field as a CT Licensed Professional Counselor, CT Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor, Board Certified Employee Assistance Professional, Board Certified Case Manager, and Board Certified Dementia Practitioner.  In addition, Ms. Ziac has 15 years of experience coordinating care for her own parents.


Linda assists seniors, people with special needs and their families; in planning for and implementing ways to allow for the greatest degree of health, safety, independence, and quality of life. Linda meets with individuals and family members to assess their needs, and develop a Care Team, while working with members of the Team to formulate a comprehensive Care Plan (a road map).


Once a plan is in place, Linda is available to serve as the point person to monitor and coordinate services, and revise the plan as needed. This role is similar to the conductor of an orchestra; ensuring that there is good communication, teamwork, and that everyone remains focused on the desired goal.

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