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50 Activities for Conflict Resolution

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Part of our best-selling 50 Activities series! Comes complete with learning objectives, facilitator guidance, and reproducible materials. Training Objectives: ´ Help individual's determine their conflict resolution style ´ Determine the role conflict plays in the workplace ´ Improve interpersonal communication in the workplace ´ Help individuals overcome concerns about conflict. Training Methods: ´ Interactive exercises ´ Role plays ´ Self-assessments ´ Mini case studies ´ Self-reflection exercises. Activities take between 5 and 50 minutes to complete.

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How Can We Both Win?A Quick Demonstration

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How Can We Both Win?

A Quick Demonstration

10 minutes

PURPOSE:

To help participants understand the difference between working against one another and working together toward a mutual end when resolving a dispute.

EQUIPMENT: None

MATERIALS: Prizes, Candy, Money, or Trainer’s Choice

PROCEDURES:

1. Ask for volunteers to demonstrate the concept of “Win-Lose” and “Win-Win.”

Select two volunteers of the same sex and have them come to the front of the room.

2. Ask them to sit face to face. Explain that they are going to compete in an arm wrestling match. If there is a small table available, put it between the volunteers, and ask them to sit in such a way that they can arm wrestle.

(With no table, have them sit in such a way that their knees will be braced against each other.)

3. Explain that you will give a prize to the winner each time an opponent is beaten.

4. Allow several rounds and give out prizes to each winner. On the third or fourth round, suggest that opponents think about partnering so that both sides can win. Once they get the idea of partnering rather than trying to defeat one another, they then realize that they can work back and forth in such a way that each can take turns winning and earn prizes. The activity is then over.

 

Individual Conflict Styles:A Zoological Approach

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Individual Conflict Styles:

A Zoological Approach

30 minutes

PURPOSE:

To help participants recognize that there are distinct differences in conflict resolution styles, and that being flexible and respecting others might help in resolving conflict.

EQUIPMENT: None

MATERIALS:

Posters prepared ahead of time showing either pictures or names of the four animals in this activity, and a one-sentence description of an appropriate style that each animal might represent (see Trainer’s Notes).

PROCEDURE:

1. Place the posters in various areas of the room.

2. Ask participants to walk around the room and stand beside the poster that best represents the way they deal with conflict.

3. Ask participants to share what they believe is good about dealing with conflict in that particular way, when it is most appropriate, and what they think they can accomplish using that style.

4. Ask participants to discuss any problems a particular style might cause, when it might be least appropriate to use, and what can be lost by using it.

 

Identifying Helpful Communication Styles

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Identifying Helpful

Communication Styles

30 minutes

PURPOSE:

To give participants an opportunity to identify their individual communication styles, and to discuss how communication styles impact conflict resolution.

EQUIPMENT: Flipchart

MATERIALS: Paper and Pencils

PROCEDURE:

1. Post one of the four previously-prepared flipchart sheets in each corner of the room (see Trainer’s Notes). Conceal descriptions until directions are given.

2. Walk around the room and unfold each flipchart page, reading what is written.

3. Instruct participants to first reflect on how they view their own communication styles and then select the one flipchart page from the four shown that they feel best matches this style. Once they have made their decisions, tell each to stand by the flipchart page of their choice.

4. Instruct them to discuss with one another why they selected that style and what the advantages and disadvantages of that style may be in resolving conflict.

5. If a participant stands alone, make sure to check in with him or her to find out why he or she made that choice.

 

I Lose—You Lose

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I Lose—You Lose

20–25 minutes

PURPOSE:

To help participants understand the possible consequences of inflexibility in attempting to resolve conflicts.

EQUIPMENT: None

MATERIALS: Instruction Slips “A,” “B,” “C,” and “D”

PROCEDURE:

1. Introduce the activity by telling the participants that through role-play, they are going to observe different ways people approach conflict resolution. They will also learn the importance of flexibility.

2. Ask for two volunteers who would be willing to act out a role play in a given situation.

3. Give one volunteer instruction slip “A” and the other instruction slip “B”

(see Trainer’s Notes). Ask them to silently read their respective Instruction

Slips and then position themselves at the front of the room.

4. Instruct the rest of the participants to observe the role play.

5. Initiate the first role play (instruction slips “A” and “B”). Call a halt when it becomes obvious what is going on.

6. Ask the rest of the participants to give feedback on what they observed:

• What actually happened?

 

Approaches to Conflict:Role-Play Demonstration

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Approaches to Conflict:

Role-Play Demonstration

30–45 minutes

PURPOSE:

To help participants understand that conflict is a natural occurrence, and that everyone has different approaches in dealing with conflict situations.

Participants will have an opportunity to learn about approaches in general and their own in particular.

EQUIPMENT: Flipchart

MATERIALS:

Handout #1: Observer Guidelines

Handout #2: Approaches to Conflict Resolution

Handout #3: Situation for Role Play

PROCEDURE:

1. Explain that this activity is designed to give participants a chance to discuss and role-play a scenario, after which they will examine four major approaches to conflict resolution.

2. Set up groups of three and have each select one person to be an ObserverReporter for the group. Give Handout #1: Observer Guidelines to each

Observer. Distribute situation slips “A” and “B” from Handout #3 to the two remaining participants in each group. Make sure no one sees anyone else’s instructions.

3. Allow 5–10 minutes for the two paired participants to role-play the situation, reminding them that their goal is to resolve the conflict. At the same time, the

 

When Conflict Creates Stress,Don’t Just Stand There!

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When Conflict Creates Stress,

Don’t Just Stand There!

30 minutes

PURPOSE:

To help participants understand that stress may be one of the normal reactions when disputants are engaged in conflict. To offer suggestions on how to deal with that stress in a constructive way.

EQUIPMENT: None

MATERIALS: Index cards

PROCEDURE:

1. Introduce the topic by making the following points:

• Dealing with conflict can be very stressful.

• The longer a situation goes unresolved, the more stressful it can be.

• Unmanaged stress is not only unhealthy from a physical standpoint, it can also reduce our ability to remain calm and objective.

• Learning how to deal with stress is an important aspect of resolving conflict.

2. Divide participants into groups of four or five. Explain that they will be involved in an activity that will generate options that can help reduce stress.

3. Pass out an index card to each participant. Ask them to recall a time when they were involved in conflict and tell them to think about the stressful feelings they had. Instruct them to select the single strongest feeling that caused them stress and write that word on the index card.

 

Introduction to Listening:A Self-Inventory

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Introduction to Listening:

A Self-Inventory

15–20 minutes

PURPOSE:

To help participants understand the importance of listening in a conflict situation, and to give participants an opportunity to assess their present listening skills.

EQUIPMENT: Flipchart

MATERIALS: Handout #1: Listening Inventory

PROCEDURE:

1 Discuss the importance of good listening in conflict situations by asking participants what their thoughts are on the importance of listening in conflict situations. Record the answers on the flipchart.

2

Divide the group into pairs and ask participants to discuss a conflict they were involved in where they believed careful listening would have been helpful, or one in which lack of listening made resolution more difficult. (For example, the participant or another person was thinking ahead about a response or a solution and consequently a whole series of dollar amounts were being considered incorrectly.)

3. Distribute Handout #1 and ask participants to answer each question; then, using the instructions provided, score their inventory. Allow 5 or 10 minutes.

 

Tug of War or Peace

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Tug of War or Peace

15–20 minutes

PURPOSE:

To see the extent that individuals will go in holding on to a position.

EQUIPMENT: Enough pieces of fairly strong rope (each about 3-feet long) based on the number of pairs into which the group can be divided.

MATERIALS: None

PROCEDURE:

1. Divide participants into pairs of the same gender, giving each pair one section of rope.

2. Explain that the goal of this activity is to set up a tug of war, with each member of the pair taking one end of the rope and pulling as hard as possible.

Let the pairs determine who gives up and when.

3. Reconvene and discuss the following questions:

• How long were you willing to keep pulling? Would it have made any difference if there had been a prize for the winner?

• What precipitated the decision to let go?

• Who decided to quit first, and why?

• How did that affect the other person?

• Explain how you can relate this experience to disputes at work.

DEBRIEF:

This activity represents conflict in microcosm: there is a winner and a loser. How hard a person strives to maintain a position depends on many factors. Basically, it’s often difficult for a person to give in. In some cases, people keep pulling as long as they feel safe. Perhaps they believe that holding on to their position may result in a reward or benefit.

 

Red Flags

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Red Flags

30–40 minutes

PURPOSE:

To give participants an opportunity to examine phrases that often create or escalate conflict.

EQUIPMENT: Flipchart

MATERIALS: None

PROCEDURE:

1. Introduce the activity by telling the participants they are going to look at counterproductive words and phrases that often create or escalate conflict— that is, the words and phrases that send up a “red flag” or make you “see red.”

2. Pair up participants and ask each pair to come up with phrases that often appear in conflicts (sending up a red flag), either causing or escalating conflict. Give examples such as “You always…,” “Your problem is…,” “Don’t tell me what I’m thinking,” etc. Tell participants you will time them, and then see which pair comes in with the most phrases in 5 minutes.

3. At the end of the time, have people call out the words or phrases they came up with. Discuss what the red flags were and write them on the flipchart.

4. Then ask the pairs to work together again, this time to identify words or phrases they think can help avoid conflict or reduce it. Allow 5 minutes.

 

Benefits and Barriers: ExploringThird-Party Intervention

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Benefits and Barriers: Exploring

Third-Party Intervention

30 minutes

PURPOSE:

To explore the advantages and disadvantages of using a third party to help in resolving a conflict.

EQUIPMENT: Flipchart

MATERIALS: Pencils and paper

PROCEDURE:

1. Briefly discuss what constitutes third-party intervention, including nonprofessional or professional neutrals such as mediators, nonbinding arbitrators, church leaders, counselors, etc.

2. Discuss which conflict situations are likely to call for a third-party intervention. Examples could be the unwillingness of involved parties to change, cultural differences, legal requirements, etc.

3. Explain that it is important to first look at the benefits and the barriers to bringing in an outside or neutral party before engaging one.

4. Divide the participants into two groups and ask each to appoint a reporter.

5. Instruct one group to discuss and write down the benefits they might find when a third party enters the process. Tell the other group to discuss and write down the barriers they might find when a third party enters the process.

 

Mismatched? Are YouReading the Nonverbal Clues?

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Mismatched? Are You

Reading the Nonverbal Clues?

30–40 minutes

PURPOSE:

To allow participants to experience the significance of nonverbal behavior (body language) and explore its relationship to an understanding of the other side.

EQUIPMENT: Either an overhead projector or flipchart

MATERIALS: Previously-prepared Instruction Slips (see Trainer’s Notes). Master for Transparency: Four Principles in Communicating

PROCEDURE:

1. Explain to the group that nonverbal behavior constantly delivers communication messages. Consequently, the more one knows about the impact of nonverbal communication on conflict, the more successful the resolution can be.

2. Tell the group that there will be a role play and that you will be passing out instructions. Pair up the participants.

3. Hand out a single randomly chosen instruction slip to one member of each pair, warning the recipient not to share the instructions with his or her partner. Ask the selected partner to read his or her instruction slip silently.

4. Tell all the pairs to choose ordinary topics (traffic congestion, a controversial movie, favorite TV show, etc.). Begin a discussion. [Important: The partner with the instruction slip must follow his or her instructions.] Call a halt after allowing about 5 minutes for the role play.

 

Constructive or DestructiveConflict: Lessons to Be Learned

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Constructive or Destructive

Conflict: Lessons to Be Learned

45 minutes

PURPOSE:

To determine how some conflict can be constructive, rather than destructive.

EQUIPMENT: Flipchart

MATERIALS: Pencils and paper

PROCEDURE:

1. Pair up participants and ask them to discuss and write down the aspects of conflict that they see as destructive. (Examples: “Destroys relationships” or

“Increases stress level,” etc.) Allow 5–10 minutes.

2. Have the pairs reconvene, ask for their comments, and list them on the flipchart under the heading of Destructive Conflicts. (If people need help, you can find additional suggestions under Trainer’s Notes.)

3. Then allow about 5–10 minutes for the paired participants to repeat the above process, this time discussing and writing down the aspects of conflict that they see as constructive. Repeat as above, listing on the flipchart the results of their work under the heading of Constructive Conflict. (There are additional constructive conflict suggestions under Trainer’s Notes.)

4. Reconvene the group and lead a discussion on the destructive and constructive elements of conflict, asking questions such as:

 

Gaining a DifferentPerspective

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Gaining a Different

Perspective

15–20 minutes

PURPOSE:

To help participants realize that in a conflict situation they may have to change their position in order to see things from a different perspective.

EQUIPMENT: None

MATERIALS:

Enough picture cards and envelopes so that when the group is divided into pairs, each pair has one card and an envelope.

PROCEDURE:

1. Have the participants count off as As and Bs, and ask the As to come forward to collect envelopes with instruction slips (see Trainer’s Notes).

2. Ask each A to select a B, and pair up in a place where they can quietly talk, standing face-to-face. Give the As a few seconds to look over the instructions before they say anything to their partners, and then have them wait for a signal to begin.

3. Give the signal to begin, and then allow a minute or two for participants to follow the instructions and discuss what each person saw.

4. After participants have moved to see the other side of the card, have the group reconvene and ask the following questions:

 

Assumptions: Who Needs ‘Em?

PDF

Assumptions: Who Needs ‘Em?

10 minutes

Purpose:

To be aware of how the assumptions we make about a person may prove to be a disadvantage.

EQUIPMENT: Flipchart

MATERIALS: Pencils and paper

PROCEDURE:

1. Ask participants to choose a partner they do not know.

2. Once the partners have been chosen, instruct them to remain silent.

3. Tell them to write down what they believe to be true about their partners. In other words, they will be guessing such factors as occupation, place of birth, education level, ethnicity, family, etc. Again remind them that they are not permitted to speak.

4. Allow about 3 minutes, and then instruct all participants to stop.

5. Reconvene and ask the following questions:

Was anyone correct about most of the assumptions they made?

How easy or difficult was this exercise?

How did you make your guesses?

How do assumptions about others influence conflict resolution?

DEBRIEF:

Making assumptions is something most of us do from time to time. Although it’s possible that our assumptions are correct, quite often they are flawed. Carried to an extreme, unverified assumptions can escalate and put the entire resolution process on a slippery slope. Remember, your partner may also be making assumptions about you, and these may be just as invalid as your assumptions about him or her. Collecting the data, checking out the assumptions, and reevaluating first impressions are important steps in any conflict situation.

 

The Big Bad Wolf. Or Is It?

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The Big Bad Wolf. Or Is It?

45 minutes

PURPOSE:

To acknowledge different perspectives and learn to find creative solutions for all parties involved in a conflict situation.

EQUIPMENT: Flipchart

MATERIALS: Pencils and paper; handout: Little Red Riding Hood and the Big

Bad Wolf

PROCEDURE:

1. Review the story of the Big Bad Wolf, using the handout.

2. Discuss why we might use this story to talk about conflict.

3. Divide participants into four groups. Assign the role of Little Red Riding

Hood to Group 1, Grandma to Group 2, the Big Bad Wolf to Group 3, and the Hunter to Group 4. Have each group select a Reporter.

4. Tell each group to discuss the reasons its character behaved in the way the story said.

5. Allow about 10 minutes. If a flipchart is available, have the Reporters list the reasons their groups came up with. Otherwise, have the Reporters call out the reasons.

6. Now instruct each group to write a letter that defines a peaceful solution to this story, one in which every character feels they win. Allow about

 

Portrait of a Peacemaker

PDF

Portrait of a Peacemaker

40 minutes

PURPOSE:

To examine the qualities of peacemakers, who avoid violence in favor of resolving conflicts through peaceful means.

EQUIPMENT: Flipchart

MATERIALS: Pencils, paper; Handout: Comparison of Users of Violence with

Non-Users of Violence

PROCEDURE:

1. This activity is about “Peacemakers,” defined in Webster’s New World

Dictionary as “…persons who make peace by settling the disagreements of others.”

2. Pass out the handout and ask participants to list in the left-hand column several well-known figures who used violence to resolve conflict situations.

In the right-hand column, list other well-known people who used nonviolent means.

3. Pair up participants and ask them to compare their lists and discuss their selections. Then ask them to write down the qualities they see shared by the various peacemakers.

4. After several minutes, reconvene the group and ask them to report on their discussions. Use the flipchart to record the names of the people they selected, and also the overall qualities they found common to the various peacemakers.

 

What Kind ofQuestion Is That?

PDF

What Kind of

Question Is That?

30–40 minutes

PURPOSE:

To help participants learn about “yes-no” and “open-ended” questions, and practice how to ask the best questions when trying to resolve a conflict

EQUIPMENT: Flipchart

MATERIALS: None

PROCEDURE:

1. Explain to the group that one of the main factors in resolving a conflict is communication. There are many kinds of communication skills, and this activity deals with one of the most important: Questioning. Tell the participants they will have an opportunity to practice asking questions, but before they do, ask them to call out their ideas of various types of questions.

2. Acknowledge all the answers as valid. Ask the participants which types of questions they think are most important. (The objective is to lead into the concepts of “yes-no” and “open-ended” questions.) If the participants did not bring up these two concepts, point out that in conflict resolution, these are often the key questions.

3. Discuss with the participants phrasing differences in each of the two key question types. Ask for examples of each type and record the responses on the flipchart in one of two columns headed “Yes-No” and “Open-Ended.”

 

Brainstorming:The Case of the Stolen Account

PDF

Brainstorming:

The Case of the Stolen Account

40 minutes

PURPOSE:

To learn how brainstorming can be helpful in resolving conflict.

EQUIPMENT: 2 flipcharts

MATERIALS: Handout #1: The Case of the Stolen Account—Fred

Handout #2: The Case of the Stolen Account—Al

PROCEDURE:

1. With the help of the participants, review brainstorming by writing the basic elements on a flipchart. (Make sure all participants are familiar with the process.)

2. Explain that participants will apply the brainstorming technique to a conflict issue.

3. Divide participants into two groups, “Fred” and “Al,” and locate them as far away from each other as possible. Appoint a recorder for each group.

4. Give each group copies of the appropriate handout (“Fred” or “Al”).

5. Ask participants to read the handout silently. At your signal, they should start brainstorming, based on the information in the handout. The recorders will record the brainstormed ideas from their respective groups.

6. Allow 10 minutes and then call “time.” Reconvene the full group and place the two flipchart pages next to each other.

 

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