Communication and Conflict


by Krauss & Morsella, Handbook of Conflict Resolution

Conflicts can be deeply disruptive and utterly painful.


When lovers fight or nations go to war,

the remedy most often prescribed is Communication.



The U.N. Council encourages hostile countries to "hold talks."

Marriage counselors advise conflicted couples to "express feelings."


For Example:

Yet, questions arise when witnessing failed attempts to resolve conflicts:

Is communication always helpful?


Under what conditions will communication reduce conflict?

To regard communication as a universal remedy for all conflicts

seems unrealistic.

It might be more sensible to view it as a neutral instrument, that can be used:


to convey threats,

as well as offer reconciliation,

to put forth unreasonable offers,

as well as acceptable ones,

to inflame a tense situation,

as well as to de-escalate it.

Unfortunately, in the absence of a genuine desire to resolve a conflict


it is very likely for communication to intensify disagreements.

A lack of interest in conflict resolution could

include many reasons, such as:


Few things can unite a group as effectively as a common enemy



Individuals may assume that the perceived benefits of continuing a conflict outweigh the costs


(e.g. a leader may be reluctant to let go of this power to control a group).

(e.g. relational, financial or career benefits).

Sadly, in such cases, communication aimed at resolving a conflict

may be achieving little.


Yet, given a genuine desire to resolve a conflict,

communication has true power to facilitate resolutions.




Good communication is no guarantee that a conflict can be resolved.


Yet, poor communication sharply increases the harmful potential of a conflict.



Our capacity to navigate conflict is significantly increased by:


Stretching beyond our comfort zones


Learning communication skills


Practicing dialogue across differences


"In true dialogue,

Thich Nhat Hanh


both sides are willing to change."