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University Counseling Center

Communication and Conflict Resolution

We initiate, form, maintain, and end relationships via verbal and nonverbal communication.

Nonverbal Communication

  • Provides information about people’s emotional states that are not communicated directly
  • Plays a part in regulating interactions-people show nonverbal signs of interest in getting to know another person
  • Defines differnt ways of physically interacting – Type of relationship (i.e. friend vs. coworker)


  • Facial expression
  • Gazing behavior
  • Body language
  • Touch

Verbal Communication

  • Style of conversation-tentative vs. direct, talkative vs. taciturn, etc.
  • Instrumentality vs. expressivity-communicating with a specific goal in mind vs. talking about emotional states
  • Active listening-restating what the other person said in your own words
  • Topics of conversation-discussing feelings vs. most recent sport events
  • Self-disclosure-revealing information about yourself

Interpersonal Conflict

When we have a conflict, a relationship is temporarily destabilized. An interpersonal conflict is an expressed disagreement between at least two people whose goals are incompatible at the moment.

People have different coping styles in the face of conflict. Some choose to deny that conflict exists, others attempt to avoid it and some “go at it” head on. Some people blame the other person, some blame themselves. The constructive ways of approaching conflict are compromise and collaboration. Compromise entails willingness to “give and take” with the other person. Collaboration is about working creatively as a team toward a solution that meets the needs of each person.

It helps to approach conflict with a clear sense of what the problem at hand is and what you would like to get out of the situation. Being able to articulate your thoughts, and needs in a direct, yet non-threatening way will promote a problem solving, rather than defensive atmosphere. Before you delve into resolving your conflict, pause and consider your thoughts and needs, and try to bring them down to just a few main themes, so that you don’t overwhelm yourself or the other person. Approaching a conflict situation with a clear description of the problem, focusing on the problem at hand, showing interest in the other person’s thoughts and opinions, and expressing interest in finding a middle ground facilitates the process of constructive conflict resolution.

Tips for Successful Conflict Resolution

  • View conflict as a constructive way of strengthening your relationships
  • If you have very few conflicts with the people in your life, pause and ask yourself: “Am I denying or avoiding conflicts with the people I care about?”
  • Communicate in a way that facilitates a problem-solving and caring climate
  • Be open. Do not withdraw from the conflict
  • Be careful about what you say and how you say it
  • Be an active listener. Let the other person know in your own words that you understand his/her thoughts, wishes, and needs
  • Summarize what you discuss and make plans to continue the discussion toward resolution

If you feel you have conflicts that are just too much for you to handle right now, you might consider getting some outside input (e.g., from your parent, friend, RA, etc.). If your conflicts are overwhelming or you are experiencing a great deal of relationship difficulties, you may want to contact UCC at (585)275-3113.