and we are wasting time” would be taken as inappropriately aggressive; changing the sentence
to: “Your description is explicit, I believe we can
reword it succinctly and save time” would appropriately transform the statement into a more
assertive one. The book offers practical situations with multiple choice questions and explains
in detail why each choice is either appropriate or
inappropriate. Particularly helpful is the description and exercises of how to build and defend an
assertion message. Again, reinforcing reflective
listening skills, the exercise of “appreciating
assertion messages” such as “When you _______I
feel _____because______” is also helpful.
Chapter 5 includes the authors’ definition of
conflict as “an expressed struggle in which two
or more interdependent parties are experiencing
strong emotion resulting from a perceived difference in needs or values.“ This definition is well
matched with all levels of conflict expertise and
with all cultures. To avoid equating an interpersonal squabble to the level of a protracted conflict
where people die, it would be useful for the authors
to discuss conflict as continuum from simple disagreements to disputes. e that become violent
leading to injury or death.
The chapter also describes different conflict
styles, and presents examples of conflict styles in
different cultures across the globe. This more advanced discussion deserves a complete text in its
own volume. The authors include a “Conflict Management Style Survey” and explain the approach
each conflict style tends to employ, as well as its
benefits and challenges. Additional exercises are
offered to help readers reflect on personal experience, identify personally employed techniques,
and encourage consideration of other techniques
so they strengthen their communication and conflict management skills.
Chapter 6 is entitled “Positions, Needs, and
Interests.” Often people become confused between
needs, positions, and interests. Some tend to see all
of these as the same. For the student new to conflict
resolution, the building block structure of the book
provides clear distinction between these elements
and recognizes that underlying ”positions” are
usually needs and interests. Chapter 6 particularly
resonated with me as I “grew up” in John Burton’s
human needs theory, which is based in part upon
Maslow. The book challenges readers to examine
human needs from a variety of perspectives, and
to practice a step-by-step analysis of identifying
needs, interests, and positions.
At this point in the book the reader will have
learned about communicating, listening, developing and appreciating effective messages, identifying conflict style, and differentiating needs,
interests and positions. This would have been
the appropriate place for Chapter 3 on problem
solving. The authors offer a clear and instructive
“Seven Step Problem Solving Process,” shown in
the right sidebar.
In their last chapter, the authors discuss
conflict resolution modeling, beginning with the.
“Human Needs Model” of Maslow, Burton, and
others who see unmet needs as the basis of
conflict. An alternative “Conflict Resolution Model
2: Resources and Values Model” explains the
differences between resource and value conflicts
and primarily asks “does it tangibly affect me?”
The “Problem Solving Process” is revisited in
Chapter 7, which builds upon integrates that
model with the other models presented.
The book ends with three appendices. One
describes a “Meta-Model” of clear and accurate
communication. The second is a robust list of “Feeling
Words,” both positive and negative. Importantly,
the last appendix, “Role-Play Exercises,” offers
a number of scenarios supporting experiential
learning. The roles are well defined, interests are
spelled out, and enough information is given to
make the “hands-on” experience significant.
While taking minor issue with the chapter
sequence (which I easily remedied with my syllabus)
I have found Communication and Conflict Resolution
Skills a remarkably worthwhile textbook. Perhaps
by a third edition the conflict continuum discourse
will have evolved and can be included.
In summary, Katz, Lawyer, and Sweedler have
written an excellent text that may be used in a wide
variety of learning settings. It is concise enough to
be used in a concentrated training session for an
organizational or corporate setting. However, it is
also a worthy text for undergraduate or graduate
level education. In addition to the basic skills, it
presents advanced skills for the more experienced.
The skill-building exercises, points for discussion,
and role-plays save the teacher time and reflect
the new paradigm supporting the creation of
significant learning experiences.
7SEVEN STEP ROBLEM SOLVING PROCESS:
1DEFINE problem or challenge
in terms of
2IDENTIFY options for solution
options that are
3EVALUATE alternative solutions.
4DECIDE on an acceptable
optioin or a
5DEVELOP and imple- mentation/
action plan (who
will do what by
6DEVELOP a process for evaluating
7TALK about the xperience
Fink, L. Dee. Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing
College Courses. (1st ed.) San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003.