Conflict Management Icebreakers

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Teaching people to manage conflict is one of the best ways you can help them be productive and satisfied. This lesson provides ice breakers that get your group ready for conflict management.

Why Do Icebreakers?

Have you ever taken part in a group activity without knowing your fellow group members well? Then, you know how challenging and uncomfortable it can be. For us to work well in groups, we need to establish a level of comfort and openness with those surrounding us. Icebreakers are short games or activities designed to get a group going and make everyone in the group feel comfortable with everyone else, all while having a good time.

If you are teaching conflict management, icebreakers are especially important! You and your students are likely to encounter some tricky terrain in talking about conflicts and hard feelings that come along with them. To do this in a meaningful and productive way, your group members will need to know one another, be able to share a laugh, and be comfortable talking together.

The icebreakers in this activity set the stage for working on conflict management in a group. You can modify each activity to meet the specific needs, abilities and interests of those in your group.

Conflict Management Icebreakers

Who Are You In a Conflict?

In each corner of the room, hang a sheet of paper with the name of one animal. Animals should be tiger, turtle, fox and dove. Ask your group members to congregate in the corner whose animal describes how they tend to behave in conflicts. Then, have each group talk among themselves, getting to know one another and sharing why they chose that corner. Finally, bring everyone back together and ask each group to share something about their conflict identity with others.

I Am, We Are

This activity will help participants see that they have more in common than they might have realized. Explain to the group that you are going to read a set of sentences. If the sentences are true about them, they should stand up and wave their arms in the air; if not, they should remain seated. Sentences might include relatively superficial ones, such as:

  • My favorite ice cream flavor is chocolate.
  • I like to stay up late.
  • I love dancing.

Sentences can also get a bit more complicated, such as:

  • I sometimes pick fights with those around me.
  • I am afraid of conflict.
  • I grew up in a home with a lot of conflict.

It can be helpful to intersperse the more superficial sentences with the deeper ones. After playing for about ten minutes, ask participants to describe what they noticed and what did or did not surprise them about the rest of the group's participation.

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