By Julia Antone (August, 2021)
Table of Contents
Setting the Context 3
Definitions & Brief History 3
What is Nonviolent Communication (NVC)? 3
What is Nonviolent Conflict Resolution (NVCR)? 4
The Relevance of both NVC and NVCR Together 4
Theories of Nonviolent Communications 5
Nonviolent Communication (NVC) 5
Appreciative Inquiry (AI) 6
Conflict Resolution Therapy 7
Linguistic Theory 8
Constructive Communication 8
Powerful Non-Defensive Communication (PNDC) 9
Other approaches 10
Workplace Conflict-Resolution 10
Family Mediation 11
Theories of Nonviolent Conflict Resolution 12
Peace Studies 12
Transcend Approach 12
Strategy of Conflict 13
Jaina Philosophy 14
Conflict Resolution Studies 14
Cultural Peace 14
Civilian Peacekeeping 15
Gordon Model 17
Realistic Conflict Theory (RTC) 19
Interest-Based Relational Model (IBR) 20
Memphis Model 21
Civil Society leadership speaking to youth at the United Nations in 2018
Setting the Context
Dr. Johan Galtung, founder of the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) and father of peace and conflict studies, coined the terms “Negative Peace (which is about stopping and preventing violence on the short term) and “Positive Peace" (which is about ensuring peace will last) to highlight the importance of short versus long term initiatives to live peacefully(1). In turn, when studying the interplay between “Negative Peace” and “Positive Peace", 5 levels of nonviolent action emerge:
Inner Nonviolence (IN);
Nonviolent Communication (NVC);
Nonviolent Conflict Resolution (NVCR);
Nonviolent Non-Cooperation (NVNC) and
Nonviolent Resistance (NVR)(2).
The purpose of this research paper is therefore to provide an overview of Nonviolent Communications (NVC) and Nonviolent Conflict Resolution (NVCR) methods more specifically in order to give a broad understanding of some of the techniques available today which are used in Negative and Positive Peace to stop and prevent violence and then create a peace that will last. Hopefully this paper will then encourage future researchers to build on some of these findings.
However, whilst this research paper endeavours to provide a general understanding of the available techniques, it will attempt to avoid the pitfall of covering some of the methods that have already been discussed extensively in the existing literature - this includes techniques of Nonviolent Resistance and Nonviolent Non-Cooperation, which are used when NVC and NVCR are not successful alone for finding solutions to conflict.
Definitions & Brief History
What is Nonviolent Communication (NVC)?
In his seminal book “Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life: Life-Changing Tools for Healthy Relationships”, Marshall B. Rosenberg defined Nonviolent communication as “a way of communicating that leads us to give from the heart. In some communities, the process (...) described is known as ‘Compassionate Communication’”(3). Whilst this definition may appear too broad to be of practical use, there is a noticeable trend in many of the NVC theories highlighted in this paper where empathy plays a key role in preventing violence. Broadly speaking, NVC guides us to reframe how we express ourselves and hear others by focusing our consciousness on what we are observing, feeling, needing, and requesting (the specific process of different NVC theories shall be described in more detail below).
Nonviolent Communication informally began with Gandhi. Whilst the latter never openly stated he had developed a nonviolent communication theory, it is now widely acknowledged that this is where NVC originally stemmed from(4). More specifically, Gandhi’s understanding of NVC was based on four key principles(5):
Nonviolent speech and action;
Maintenance of relationships and enrichment of personhood;
In the 1960s, Rosenberg was the one who developed an official theory of NVC. Besides Gandhi, his theory was also largely inspired from person-centered therapy as developed by Carl Rogers.
What is Nonviolent Conflict Resolution (NVCR)?
Nonviolent conflict resolution is a peaceful process that manages conflict through compromise, or through the assistance of a third party who either facilitates or imposes a settlement or resolution(6).
The development of NVCR was greatly influenced by the historical developments of 1946 to 1969, notably Gandhi’s peace movement.
After the Second World War, many governmental and nongovernmental actions were undertaken to prevent future wars by building new transnational institutions and fostering reconciliation between former enemies.
Indian independence from Britain was achieved in 1947, following many years of nonviolent resistance, led by Mohandas Gandhi. The Satyagraha campaigns and related negotiations influenced methods of constructive escalation.
Finally, the strategies of nonviolent action and associated negotiations were further developed in the civil rights struggles in the United States during the 1960s.
The Relevance of both NVC and NVCR Together
Throughout this paper, it will become increasingly obvious that Nonviolent Communication is of intrinsic value to Nonviolent Conflict Resolution. In fact, most of the theories covered in the NVCR section contain some sort of emphasis on language (whether it be constructive communication or active listening), and rightly so, as one could hardly be expected to obtain peace by bargaining with an opposing party in an aggressive, disrespectful or outright violent way.
Theories of Nonviolent Communications
Nonviolent Communication (NVC)
Theory: In his famous book “Non-Violent Communication: A language of Life”(7), Marshall Rosenberg presents the process that enables a smooth, and ultimately non-violent, form of communication as means for conflict resolution. Quite simply, he names the process he describes as “Non-Violent Communication” (NVC). At the heart of NVC lies an ultimate goal: compassion.
Methodology: In order to reach this goal, the process of NVC is separated into four distinct components:
Observation (not judgements): During observation, the individual using NVC must be able to identify what a third-party may (or may not) be doing which either benefits or harms said individual. Here, Rosenberg highlights the importance of being able to do so without formulating a judgement.
Feeling (not thoughts): Secondly, the individual must state how they feel when they observe the third-party’s actions: are they sad, content, irritated? The list goes on.
Need (not need strategies): Next, the individual must express what needs flow from the feelings they just experienced.
Request (not demands): Lastly, the individual expresses what they would like the third-party to do in order to make their lives more pleasant.
This process is not complete if we do not hear from the third-party with whom we engage: we must reciprocate the process by sensing what they are observing, feeling, and needing, and then receiving the fourth piece and discovering what would improve their lives. This is meant to establish what Rosenberg describes as a “flow of communication” which should help compassion to manifest naturally.
Example: Imagine a mother wanting to address the fact that her son is untidy without being aggressive or violent. Using NVC, it might sound like this:
“Felix, when I see two balls of soiled socks under the coffee table and another three next to the TV (observation), I feel irritated (feeling) because I am needing more order in the rooms that we share in common (need). Would you be willing to put your socks in your room or in the washing machine (request)?”(8)
Appreciative Inquiry (AI)
Theory: Appreciative Inquiry (AI), as developed by David Cooperrider, is all about adopting a positive mindset. In practice, it is about inquiring into the best features of organizations in the goal of developing better futures. Underlying AI is a belief that the questions we ask are critical to the world we create(9).
This process is based on 5 foundational principles:
The Constructionist Principle: reality is socially constructed through language;
The Simultaneity Principle: change begins from the moment a question is asked;
The Poetic Principle: our choice of what we study determines what we discover;
The Anticipatory Principle: our image of the future shapes the present;
The Positive Principle: positive questioning leads to positive change(10).
Methodology: Appreciative Inquiry is a 4 step process based around an affirmative topic choice:
Discover: What gives life? What is the best? Appreciating and identifying processes that work well.
Dream: What might be? What is the world calling for? Envisioning results, and how things might work well in the future.
Design: What should be the ideal? Co-constructing - planning and prioritizing processes that would work well.
Destiny (or deliver): How to empower, learn and adjust/improvise? Sustaining the change(11).
Example: Below are some foundational Appreciative Inquiry interview questions for a business situation. These could be asked to an employee by his or her manager in order to approach a work challenge from a positive perspective.
“What has been a high-point experience in your organization/division/life when you felt most alive, successful, and effective?”
“Without being humble, what do you value most about yourself, your work, and your organization?”(12)
Conflict Resolution Therapy
Theory: Conflict Resolution Therapy, as developed by Susan Heitler, is an approach to treatment that seeks to teach people conflict resolution skills. It was designed primarily to help couples but can be used to address conflict in any given situation(13).
Conflict Resolution Therapy has 3 main goals:
The removal of symptoms;
The prevention of subsequent tensions by improving conflict-resolution skills;
The resolution of current conflicts.
Methodology: The approach implements these basic steps (which are referred to by Heitler as the "win-win waltz") during the treatment process:
Expression of initial positions;
Exploration of underlying concerns (with a focus on core concerns);
Creation and establishment of a mutually agreed-upon plan that meets the needs of both participants(14).
Example: Jan and Dan are a married couple who struggle to engage in effective communication. They therefore attended a therapy session to attempt to solve their couple problems. What quickly became obvious during the session is that Dan is often reluctant to communicate in the face of criticism and gives in to Jan’s arguments. This annoys Jan who becomes defensive and aggressive towards Dan. After having helped each of them to draw up a list of conflicting issues within their marriage, the therapist explored childhood related issues and deeper emotional traumas. Taking into consideration what had been said during the two previous steps, the therapist encouraged the couple to draw up long term goals that met their needs. Whilst Jan established she needed better communication, better conflict-resolution and must feel that her husband is dependable, Dan for his part felt that he needed to be trusted, to prevent arguments and to ensure that their relationship was permanent. This was also accompanied by a shorter-term goal of improving effective communication in order to address an unpleasant event that had happened to the couple.
Theory: The words of a language are a treasury of thoughts, ideas, perceptions and interpretations of the world. Constructive communication(15) as put forward by Gomes de Matos, stresses the power of language as a tool for peacebuilding, peace supporting and peace sustaining. Matos places specific emphasis on the importance of “good communication for the good of humankind”(16).
Methodology: Matos offers a checklist on how to communicate constructively so as to foster a positive and peaceful environment:
“Help integrate seemingly conflicting points of view (yours and your conversational partner);
Be cordial to your linguistic neighbor;
React responsibly, in a spirit of dignifying reciprocity;
Interact for mutual good and kindness;
Find out as much as possible about your interactive neighbor’s beliefs and values. Remember: People are more important than problems;
Ask for constructive feedback;
Form questions positively.”(17)
Example: Matos drew up some examples of constructive communication based on “taking into account conflicting points of view” (point 1), “being cordial” (point 2), “reacting responsibly” (point 3) and “interacting for mutual kindness” (point 4), which are key components of active listening. In a conflict between two individuals, with one blaming the other for his/her actions, we could imagine that the individual responding to the attack using constructive communication could react as follows:
“I can understand how you would perceive that as a threat”
“Let’s see how we can work together to address your concern.”(18)
Powerful Non-Defensive Communication (PNDC)
Theory: Sharon Ellison developed Powerful Non-Defensive Communication (PNDC) as a tool to protect one’s self from conflict without necessarily engaging in a power struggle or becoming defensive. PNDC is about deciding how to interact with a third-party based on how they interact with us(19).
Ask questions: be curious, open, innocent, neutral and inviting.
Purpose: to gather thorough information to understand precisely what the individual means, believes, or feels.
Stay away from: using a question to state your own viewpoint or to entrap others.
Make statements: be open, direct, vulnerable, subjective and descriptive.
Purpose: The initial three stages are to state impartially our abstract understanding of:
what we hear the other individual saying,
any inconsistencies we (see) in the individual's tone, body language, and words, and
our conclusions in regards to the individual's plain and covert messages. The fourth step is not neutral and is to 4) completely express our own responses, our sentiments, convictions, and thinking.
Avoid: stating an opinion as fact or trying to convince others to agree.
Predict consequences: be protective, foretelling, neutral, definitive and firm.
Purpose: To create boundaries and security by telling another person ahead of time how we will respond if s/he settles on a specific decision, and how we will respond if s/he doesn't settle on that decision.
Avoid: Using a consequence prediction to coax, punish, or falsely threaten others.
Example: For the purposes of this example, let us imagine a situation in which somebody acts annoyed at us.
Example #1: the initial step is to just get some information about your own assumptions so s/he can affirm, deny, or qualify them. For instance, "Are you irritated (frustrated, angry, upset) about something?"
Example #2: If the person continues to act irritable and yet denies it when asked, saying harshly, ''I'm fine!,'' we might respond with this four part statement:
“Hear: When I hear you saying that you are in a good mood
See: and (at the same time) I see that you are rolling your eyes and shrugging
Conclude: then I believe that something is wrong but you don't want to tell me
Reaction: and so I feel frustrated and am not sure if I should ask you more questions or leave you alone."
Example #3: If the person still acts upset and continues to deny it, after hearing our statement, saying "I said I'm fine, there's no problem!," we can set a limit using an "If......then" sentence:
"If you would like to tell me what's going on, then I would like to hear it,"
"If you don't want to tell me, then I don't want to try to make you."(20)
Theory : Effective conflict resolution skills and policies are imperative in the workplace. It seems that many business journals(21,22) emphasize the importance of good communication in similar ways: setting clear goals, active listening and taking prompt actions appear to be the way forward in addressing work-place disputes.
Resolve workplace conflict by addressing the issue immediately;
Set clear expectations;
Apply active listening skills;
Use neutral terms and open body language;
Respect personal differences(23).
Example: Imagine a conflict between an employer and an employee, with the employer being unhappy with the way she/he is treated at his/her workplace. Using point 4 “neutral terms and open body language”, the employer could phrase sentences from an “I” perspective rather than a “you” one, in order to avoid a situation in which a party could feel attacked and get defensive. For example, saying "I feel undervalued in my position" is going to be more effective than saying "You don't value my work."(24)
Theory: Lisa Parkinson’s theory of conciliation and mediation is most relevant in a family context, especially in regards to divorces. She advocates for conciliation to reduce the loss of personal identity and grief from family disintegration(25).
Methodology: The conciliation process is made up of different steps:
Crisis intervention techniques, with a perspective derived from family therapy;
Communication and clarification of facts and feelings, into options and objectives, legal issues and their implications;
Example: In “Expanding the model without breaking the mould: developing practice and theory in family mediation”(26), Parkinson provides an important example of the role of conciliation and more specifically of mediators in resolving deep and difficult familial conflicts.
She uses the example of what she calls a “Family C”, one that has had recourse to mediation. Jack, the father, wanted a court order enabling him to spend time with his 3-year-old daughter, Zoe. Zoe’s mother, Tara, was strongly opposed given that Jack had a history of drug abuse. There was also a restraining order against him which prevented him from approaching Tara. Tara said at her information and assessment meeting that she and Jack were strongly opposed to meeting face-to-face. Jack and Tara were offered separate meetings on different days and it emerged that Tara had always got on well with Jack’s grandparents and she trusted them to keep Zoe safe. Tara was willing to take Zoe to Jack’s grandparents’ home and leave her with them every third Saturday. Jack could spend the time there with Zoe, but not take her out. Denis, the grandfather, was seen on his own as well. Denis said he and his wife loved Zoe and were anxious to help. He signed a copy of the agreement to mediate and arrangements were made as Tara proposed(27).
Theories of Nonviolent Conflict Resolution
Theory: In the 2000s, Dr. Galtung developed his famous “Transcend Approach”(28). The approach advocates for an understanding that a conflict is the result of “incompatible goals” rather than “incompatible parties” (such as people). Therefore, disputes are problems to be solved rather than controlled. Transforming a conflict requires transcending the goals of conflicting parties, defining new goals, dis-embedding the conflict from its original situation and transforming it to embed it in a more promising place(29).
Methodology: “The primary tool is empathetic, respectful dialogue that explores the conflict.
Identify positive elements in the parties and the conflict itself to create the potential for further development. Emphasise shared roots and responsibilities, rather than distributing blame and guilt.
Be creative and suggest alternative courses of action. Collectively find a short, memorable outcome formula, for example ‘sustainable development’, that may not do justice to all complexities, but may facilitate communication.
Do not demand consensus, commitment or co-operation from parties who are not ready. Equally do not ‘deform’ the conflict by pushing agendas too far away from the parties’ immediate concerns.
Do not manipulate. Be open and honest with yourself and others about aims and feelings, remembering that the conflict worker’s task is to empower.
Do not judge. Retain confidentiality and do not seek publicity or gratitude.
Remember that conflict work is the art of the impossible, requiring optimism, idealism of the heart and realism of the brain.”(30)
Example: Let us imagine an example of a conflict within a couple/family context. A well-known example of the Transcend Approach within that framework is that of Donna and Don(31). Donna and Don are a happily married couple living in Portland Oregon. Don wants to vacation at Mount Adams. He enjoys alpine hikes but Donna prefers the cool comfort of a lake where she can swim to exercise and cool off; she wants to go to Siltcoos Lake. Don begins by selling Donna on the advantages of Mount Adams. She gets impatient because he is ignoring her wishes as he tries to get his way. She counters by trying to sell Don on the benefits of Siltcoos lake. After a few rounds back and forth in this classic skirmish, Donna gets exasperated and says, “Maybe we should skip the travel and just stay at home for this vacation. We can spend time together, catch up on chores around the house, and also save some money”. Don replies, “No, we should get away from here. How about three days at Mount Adams, and then three days at Siltcoos Lake. If you prefer, we could take separate vacations, I'll go to Mount Adams and you can go to Siltcoos Lake”. Donna protests “The extra travel is too much hassle, and I want us to vacation together, not apart, we hardly see each other as it is. I'm tired of arguing, let's drop this for now”. The next day their son, who is away at college, calls. Donna describes the conflict to him. Immediately he says, “That's easy, go to Crater Lake. It is a beautiful lake set inside of a massive mountain. You both get what you want with no hassle, no separation, and no compromise”.
Summary: The Transcend method describes these steps for transcending conflict:
Identify the goals of each party. Here Don's originally stated goal of “Vacation at Mount Adams” was more accurately and more flexibly understood as “Vacation at a mountain”.
Identify and eliminate any goals that are invalid or illegitimate. These include any goals that deny the needs of another. In the example, the proposal to have separate vacations was invalid, because it denied Donna's valid need to vacation together.
Explore creative options. Keep creating more alternatives as you increase your empathy for the other's goals.
Choose the best option from all the alternatives that have been suggested.
Strategy of Conflict
Theory: Thomas Schelling’s “Strategy of Conflict” clearly stands out from the theories having been mentioned thus far for the incredibly realist perspective it takes on conflict resolution. Although Schelling encourages cooperation in order to reduce conflict, he still maintains that harmony is not intrinsically possible, and there exists situations where violence will still exist (such as “pure conflict”, where the goals of the conflicting parties simply cannot be reconciled).
Methodology: As previously stated, the primary means of “conflict-resolution” is cooperation. However, it is important to specify that Schelling aims mainly at some kind of “bargaining position” between the different parties, he hopes to reduce conflict more than to totally eradicate it.
Example: Examples of cooperation mechanisms as stated by Schelling include many forms, they can be:
Theory: Anekantavada originates from Jaina philosophy (ancient Indian philosophical system). It is based on the idea that our intolerance to listen and understand others’ viewpoints stand at the root of conflicts. Our blind commitment to (aggressively) promote our understanding of the world and beliefs is harmful because it does not leave space for understanding that third-parties may be right too, and therefore creates conflict. Anekanta addresses this issue by emphasising that it is possible to live in a world where reality has multiple facets.
Methodology: Jain thought is all about understanding that things exist from the standpoint of their:
Own substance (dravya),
Time (kāla) and quality,
State or form (bhāva)(33).
There is no specific Jain methodology that can be applied in the context of peace studies. As stated above, Jaina is more of a philosophy to live by personally rather than a practical step-by-step guide.
Conflict Resolution Studies
Theory: Kevin Avruch presents the idea that culture plays a role that is paramount both in creating conflict and in resolving it. He goes against the realist tide stressing the interest-based nature of all conflicts and emphasises the role of different cultures.
Methodology: Avruch’s primary medium of conflict-resolution is negotiation. He goes beyond basic understandings of negotiation to offer a dual approach which dives deeply into culture and which he suggests to combine in order to understand cultural differences during negotiations.
“The emic approach to understanding culture focuses on studying the culture in an “actor-centered” or from inside approach. It is an attempt to understand the culture the way its members understand it.
The etic approach uses a set of pre-determined universal characteristics on which all cultures can be compared from the outside.”(34)
Example: In the imaginary context of an armed conflict between Israel and Egypt, one could use a cultural approach to try to assess the importance of culture in creating but also potentially resolving the dispute. Using only an etic approach, Egypt could be classified as being “high-context” and Israel as “low-context”(35). In 1976, Hall proposed that cultures could be divided into two categories—high context (less-direct verbal and nonverbal communication, utilizing small communication gestures and reading more meaning into these less-direct messages) and low context (direct verbal communication is needed to properly understand a message being communicated and relies heavily on explicit verbal skills)(36). Since high and low contexts refer to a set of pre-determined characteristics on which all cultures can be compared, the approach is considered to be “etic”. Using this information, a negotiated truce could be adapted and nuanced to the cultural needs of both parties, which would have been disregarded if a non-cultural approach had been adopted and could have led to a less successful outcome.
Theory: Dr. Lisa Schirch is well-known for her contribution to civilian peacekeeping. In her book “Civilian Peacekeeping: Preventing Violence and Making Space for Democracy”(37), she highlights various forms of civilian peacekeeping meant to prevent and potentially resolve conflict.
Traditional peacekeeping is based on the idea of peacekeepers intervening physically between groups engaged in violent conflict in a neutral stance toward all groups.
Accompaniment or presence
Peacekeepers hope to deter violence by accompanying certain individuals or groups in danger or by being a presence in a community that is threatened.
Observing and monitoring
Building a global human rights movement
Human Rights and Peace Education
Humanitarian Assistance and Development
Designing a Civilian Intervention(38).
Example: An example of point 5 “Observing and monitoring” is the work done by the Iraq Peace Team (IPT). Since Iraq was home to a war from 2005 to 2011, IPT developed monitors in order to track civilian casualties and infrastructure damage as a way to determine if any parties were committing war crimes(39).
Theory: Dr. James Wall is one of the prominent theorists who focused on the importance of mediation in conflict resolution. Based on Kressel and Pruitt’s (1989) definition, he describes mediation as “assistance to two or more interacting parties by third parties who (usually) have no authority to impose an outcome”(40, 41).
Methodology and Examples: Both Wall and Rhetta Standifer summarized methods of mediation as follows. The mediator's various techniques are targeted at the disputants themselves, the disputants relationship, and the disputants relationships with others(42).
The information can be gathered from disputants or written documents
Pressing (mediator threatens one of the parties)
Act aggressively toward one party
Reward a party for making a concession
Education / Advising
Explanation of and then call for a specific agreement or concession
Use of humor or lightness
Suggest disputants can reach agreement on their own
Criticism of the position of one of the parties
Simple monitoring without providing input
Smoothing and Cooling
Meet together with parties
Sell one party's position to the other party
Packages issues and positions so they are more acceptable to the other party
Looks for facts supporting different positions
Ask one party to state the position of the other party
Disputants-Third Party Relationship
Use of Third Parties
Obtain assistance from third parties
Making the Dispute Public
Shares the conflict with outside parties
Theory : The model Thomas Gordon developed came to be known as the Gordon Model or the Gordon Method. The Gordon Model is a complete and integrated system for building and maintaining effective relationships based on effective communication(43).
From his original Model, Dr. Gordon then applied it to parents (Parents Effectiveness Training)(44), to teachers (Teachers Effectiveness Training)(45) and then to leaders (Leader Effectiveness Training)(46).
Methodology: The Gordon Model takes place in different steps, and it is usually used in a classroom context:
The first step is to use a graphic tool developed by Dr. Gordon himself called a “Behavior Window.”(47) The purpose of the Behavior Window is to determine if a problem exists, who “owns it” (in other words, who is the individual that is upset about X or Y?), and what techniques can be used to resolve it(48):
ii. The second step will depend on who “owns” the problem:
If the student owns the problem, then the teacher must actively listen. This communicates to the student that the teacher cares and is genuinely engaged in the conversation.
If the teacher owns the problem, Dr. Gordon suggests that the second step of the resolution process begins with an “I-Message”. This means that the teacher will initiate the conversation by explaining her/his feelings to the student. Whilst nothing prevents both parties engaged (as opposed to just one as is the case here) from explaining their feelings using “I-messages”, the example here takes into account that the teacher’s position of authority vis-à-vis her/his students along with the greater awareness of the Model he/she is likely to possess places him/her in a better position to initiate the process.
------* Ideally, an I-Message is comprised of 3 parts:
------* A non-blameful description of their behaviour: “When I see the toys on the floor . . .”
------* How the teacher felt about the behaviour: “ . . . I feel concerned . . .”
------* The impact or cost to them. This is the ‘because’ – where they give your child a reason: “. . . that I might step on a Lego block and hurt my foot”(49).
iii. The final step is the “No-Lose Conflict Resolution.” The purpose of this final step is to come up with a solution that everyone can be invested in.
The final No-Lose approach is explained below in more details:
Identifying and defining the problem;
Generating alternative solutions;
Evaluating the alternative solutions;
Implementing the solution;
Follow-up evaluation of the solution(50).
Example: One example given in Thomas Gordon’s book Parent Effectiveness Training (1970) is that of a child arriving home late. As the child is late coming home, the parents are upset and are the ones “owning” the problem. Since they have identified they are the ones who are upset, their next step is to use the “I-message” formula and say something such as: “When you didn’t call to say you would be late, we were worried. That distracted us from our work”.
Realistic Conflict Theory (RTC)
Theory : Muzafer and Carolyn Sherif are most well-known for their “Robbers Cave Experiment”, intended as a demonstration of Realistic Conflict Theory (RCT). RCT is a psychological model of inter-group conflict which posits that hostility arises as a result of conflicting goals and/or competition over limited resources. According to RCT, conflict can only be resolved if “superordinate goals” are created.
"Superordinate goals are goals that are worth achieving
but require two or more social groups to cooperate
in order to be completed."(51)
Methodology : Realistic Conflict Theory is quite simply about setting goals. Whether these are established through projects or other methods, what matters is that these goals are seen as valuable and inspiring enough for individuals to cooperate.
Example: A good example of how superordinate goals work is exemplified in the Robbers Cave Experiment, where the very concept of superordinate goals was born. The experiment was conducted on a group of young boys (aged 11 to 12 years old) of similar socio-economic backgrounds. The boys were taken to the Robbers Cave State Park, where they were split into two groups upon arrival.
Firstly, the researchers created a situation in which both of the groups developed rivalry, and were instigated to compete against each other. However, when they were put together to solve a common problem, there was a feeling of comradeship and mutual trust. The staff created a drinking water problem, blaming it on vandals. Both the teams came together to inspect the problem, since they both needed it resolved. Once they came together, they worked together in finding solutions, and also accepted suggestions from each other. After the problem was solved, it was a joint accomplishment and a common victory.(52)
Interest-Based Relational Model (IBR)
Theory: The IBR (Interest-Based Relational) coined by Fisher and Ury addresses the issue of conflict in the workplace. It stresses the importance of the separation between people and their emotions from the problem. Another goal of the approach is to build mutual understanding and respect as they strengthen bonds among parties and can ultimately help resolve conflicts harmoniously(53).
Make sure that good relationships are a priority;
Separate people from problems;
Listen carefully to different interests;
Listen first, talk second;
Set out the facts;
Explore options together.(54)
Example: Imagine a business situation in which a manager wants to resolve a work-based problem that has occurred between her employees. He decides to use IBR as a method of conflict-resolution and does the following:
Before the discussion, she stresses that the problem is never one’s complete fault. She states their own involvement in the issue and lets everyone know they are here to listen and not to accuse anyone.
They then try to look at the problem from the different perspectives of the employees, instead of simply viewing it as a result of (unresolvable) confronting opinions.
The manager invites the employees to speak first in order to let them know they are being listened to. She also uses eye-contact and direct nodding to show that they are actively listening.
The manager also prepared pieces of paper with different numbers written on them. Then, she asks different employees to pick one and talk according to the sequence of the number. After everyone’s finished, the manager advises everyone to use “I” more than “You” in the discussion period to avoid others thinking that it is an accusation.
While everyone is expressing their own views, she asks them to write down everything they know that is true to the problem. As soon as everyone has finished, all facts can be noted and everyone’s understanding of the problem is raised.
After the discussion, she asks all members to suggest any possible solutions. After clearly stating that she is looking for the best outcomes for everyone’s sake, they evaluate all the solutions and pick the one that is in favor of everyone(55).
Theory: One of the most prominent de-escalation programs was developed by The Memphis Crisis Intervention Team or CIT. This program, which has come to be known as the Memphis Model, provides law enforcement with crisis intervention training to particularly help those with mental illness(56).
Methodology: The Memphis Model offers the following tools:
Maintain safe distance (5-6 ft or 21 ft rule);
Use clear voice tone;
Use volume lower than that of the opposing aggressive individual;
Use relaxed, well-balanced, non- threatening posture (yet maintaining tactical awareness;
Be active in helping;
Build hope – resolution is possible;
Focus on strengths;
Present self as a calming influence;
CIT officer demonstrates confidence and compassion;
Remove distractions, disruptive or upsetting influences;
Be aware of body language/congruency;
Be aware that uniform, tools can be intimidating;
Use “I” statements;
Here and now: focus on the present situation and on attending to their immediate needs;
Validation/acceptance: validate and accept the victim’s feelings;
Make no promises you cannot keep;
Recognize that mentally ill persons may be overwhelmed by sensations, thoughts, frightening beliefs, sounds, environment – provide careful explanations, instructions;
Determine need for food, water and basic needs;
Use active listening skills(57).
The Memphis Model places a particular emphasis on active listening, as detailed below.
Active listening in the Memphis Model is set out in more details below:
Paraphrasing/Restatement: summarizing what the person said;
Reflection: trying to understand what the person is feeling/saying;
Attending: attending to any urgent needs they may have;
Asking open-ended questions;
Silence: sends the message that you are willing to listen(58).
Example: Imagine a situation where a police officer has been asked to intervene to help a drug user. He/she decides to apply active listening in the discussion. An example of how point 1 “paraphrasing” and point 2 “reflection” would look like in this context are as follows:
Suspect: “I started back using and me and my old lady went to fighting. She left me. I didn’t go in today. It was my last chance. I’m fired. It’s just not worth it anymore.”
Officer: “Let me see if I understand. You’ve been using again and you and your wife have been fighting. You lost your job. And you want to give up?”
Suspect: “I’m a real mess. I had two years. I was going to meetings. My wife and I were doing okay. Work was good. I can’t do anything right.”
Officer: “You sound embarrassed and pretty hopeless about getting your life back together?”(59).
What these theories have highlighted thus far is the intrinsic linkage between Nonviolent Communication and Nonviolent Conflict Resolution, and the need for the former in order for the latter to take place. There is now a need for greater awareness of NVC and NVCR both among professionals of conflict resolution but also and primarily among the general public. As many of the theories have highlighted, many techniques are available and can be employed in everyday life (for example in a family context) and are thus within anyone’s reach. Whilst this paper has modestly attempted to gather as many relevant NVC and NVCR techniques as possible, there is the need for further research specifically into the less well-known theories of the discipline, which could perhaps benefit from more coverage and also contribute to the development of nonviolence. To conclude, I have attempted to gather the NVC theories and NVCR theories mentioned thus far in two tables in order to give a broad overview of the different methods that have been touched upon in the previous pages.
Theories of Nonviolent Communications
Work Place Conflict Resolution
Powerful Non-Defensive Communications
Nonviolent Conflict Resolution Therapy
Theories of Nonviolent Conflict Resolution
Cultural Conflict Resolution
Strategy of Conflict
Realistic Conflict Theory
Interest-Based Relational Theory
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