Conflict Resolution Activities for Adults

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

How do you teach a group of adults how to deal with social and familial conflict? You can have them practice the basic conflict resolution techniques that are key in conflict resolution practice. Let's review a few possible activities in this lesson.

Approach to Conflict Resolution

When you teach a group of adults how to deal with social and familial conflict, it is good to first engage the adult group in the topic. A good approach is to discuss the importance of conflict resolution. Explain that conflict resolution skills are important because they are the correct approach to dealing with social and familial conflict. Emphasize to your adult group that skills lead to success, and that to learn skills, it is necessary to practice one skill at the time.

Conflict Resolution Activities

For many of these activities, you can give adults a conflict situation that involves two or more people. However, it is best to have adults working in pairs. Social and familial conflict situations you can pose include but are not limited to:

  • parents who discuss children's custody
  • siblings who disagree about taking care of a sick mother or father
  • parents and child in disagreement about bad behavior consequences
  • neighbors who argue about noise one of them makes
  • two strangers who argue about who arrived at a parking spot first
  • landlord/landlady in disagreement with tenant about pet ownership

For each situation, make sure you provide the basic components of the story. For instance, if you have two adults discussing about children's custody, you could include the fact that the father argues in his favor because he works from home and can take care of children. The mother can argue in her favor saying she works part-time while kids are at school, etc. The key is to give each part a reason for their argument.

Activity to Practice Friendly Conversation

Adults can benefit enormously from learning how to communicate their ideas in a friendly manner. Remind them that the reason why conflict escalates often has to do with how people talk to each other. As tips, tell your group to avoid rude wording, expressions that hurt the other's feelings, and yelling. Encourage them to use both friendly words and peaceful tone of voice. Then, have them discuss the reasons why they have their own view of a situation and why they want a given result. As the group works on this, you can make notes to then give both positive and negative feedback about the way they communicated. Then, have them practice again how they should communicate with each other, encouraging to correct the mistakes they made the first time.

Activity to Understand the Other Person's View

In this activity, your adult group learns to clarify possible misunderstandings and to understand the other party's view of the conflict as well as the reasons for that view. They can then focus on trying to understand the other's position by listening to the other party first and then summarizing what they understand. The other party can clarify if necessary. A good skill to apply here is to have participants paraphrase, which is to repeat what the other party said without changing the essential meaning. You could give an example in which party A says 'You often use harmful words when you talk to me.' Party B can say 'You are saying that I talk to you in inappropriate manner.'

Activity to Find Creative Solutions

Tell your adult group that part of solving a social or familial conflict involves the need to brainstorm to find many possible solutions to the conflict. Each part in disagreement can and should come up with creative solutions they did not consider before. To practice this, have your group talk about different solutions that could lead to a friendly resolution. Encourage them to propose solutions that would satisfy their own wishes and needs as well as those of the other party. For feedback purposes, analyze the solutions they propose in terms of how the solutions benefit both parties. To follow up with the analysis, they can then practice talking about the solutions they are willing to adopt. For example, in the case of parents who argue about custody, the solution can be based on which parent is closer to the children's school.

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