Conflict Management, Deborah Borisoff and David Victor, (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1989), 201 pp.
Communication and the limiting of misunderstandings; escalation control; of general applicability to environmental problems; written for first and third party participants.
Conflict Management presents a communication skills approach toward managing conflicts. It analyses the role communication plays in exacerbating conflicts, and offers communication strategies which promote productive conflict management.
Conflict Management will be of interest to those seeking an understanding of the role of communication in conflict, and the communication skills needed for productive conflict management. This work is divided into seven chapters, with an introduction and indices. Each chapter closes with a series of exercises for the reader, designed to illustrate and reinforce the principles discussed in that chapter.
Chapter One explores the nature of conflict. The authors suggest a five-step approach to managing conflict: assessment, acknowledgement, attitude, action, and analysis. Conflict management begins with an assessment of the sources of the conflict, the individual characters involved and their goals, and the communication environment. Parties to the conflict must acknowledge each other's perspective, and assume an attitude of cooperation and participation in the management process. Parties may take verbal and nonverbal action to advance their goal. The character of these verbal and nonverbal plays a crucial role in the development of the conflict. The authors suggest twelve guidelines toward producing productive communication in this stage. Analysis should occur throughout the conflict management process.
Chapters Two and Three focus on the action stage of conflict management, and explore verbal and nonverbal strategies for creating a supportive communication environment. Supportive verbal strategies will emphasize description, spontaneity, empathy, equality, provisionalism, and will take a problem orientation. Each of these elements is discussed in some detail, and contrasted to defensive, counter-productive verbal strategies. Nonverbal communication, or "body language" also plays an important role in conflict. Chapter Three describes the various aspects of nonverbal communication, the sorts of messages typically conveyed by nonverbal behaviors, and suggests strategies for the productive employment of nonverbal communication.
Chapters Four and Five discuss gender and cultural differences in communication style as sources of conflict, and discuss the impact of such differences on conflict management. The different genders and different cultures employ different communications styles. And so, for instance, men and women may differently interpret similar communication acts, with miscommunication the result. Cultural differences also result in interpretive differences, and misunderstandings. Understanding gender and cultural differences can help to minimize misunderstandings.
Chapter Six focuses on written communication. Just as styles of spoken communication can exacerbate conflict or promote management, so can styles of written communication. This chapter outlines the sources of miscommunication in writing, and offers suggestions on improving written communication. Chapter Seven offers a very brief summary and conclusion.
Conflict Management provides insight into the ways in which different styles of communication can either exacerbate or help to resolve conflicts. The text offers detailed descriptions of the various elements which contribute to effective communication, and includes a number of exercises which further illustrate effective communication.