Conflict Resolution and Active Listening
On September 24, 2008, Ruthy Kohorn Rosenberg, Mediation Expert and training, and Director of Student Mediation at MIT, led a workshop on skills to help students manage conflicts with people in their lives. Twenty-five associate advisors attended the workshop and learned how the conflicts that they face can often be resolved by acquiring active listening skills. Through group activities that included role-playing and interactive games, training participants experienced first-hand the value of active listening to successful conflict resolution.
As students, you experience conflicts all the time and in many situations. Understanding effective ways in which to manage these challenges can reduce your stress and increase your productivity. This workshop helped associate advisor to identify which issues created the greatest conflicts for them and their advisees.
Top Five Conflicts you have Encountered as Associate Advisors:
- Roomate issues
- Scheduling/ class conflicts
- Academic adjustment
- Living conditions
- Cultural adjustments
To resolve the top five conflicts encountered by students, Associate Advisors were asked to pay attention to a Chinese character that demonstrates how the "ears, eyes, heart" work together to produce "undivided attention".
"The Chinese characters that made up the verb "to listen" tells us something significant about this skill."
"Conflict emerges when disagreements, differences, annoyances, competition or inequities threaten something important, even if it seems trivial or unimportant to someone else."
A key factor that contributes to successful conflict resolution is founded on Active Listening. The following lists define the meaning of active listening, identifies the skills needed to achieve it and demonstrate how they can be used in mediation.
- Listening is powerful and important
- Good listening is helpful in and of itself
- Builds trust and rapport
- De-escalates and calms
- Creates clarity
- Listening is a precursor to problem-solving
- Feels like a "gift" – everyone wants to be heard
Active Listening Skills
- Get the story
- Clarify meanings
- Listen for emotions and feelings
- Value silence
Uses of Active Listening in Mediation
- Get information
- Build trust
- Model constructive communication
- Help people hear themselves and others
- Defuse emotions, de-escalate tensions
- Increase clarity about facts, issues, feelings and goals
- Bring out underlying interests and concerns
- Build bridges
More importantly, workshop participants learned how to apply the information to their mentoring experiences with their freshmen. First-year students face many obstacles as they transition to campus life and the academic rigor of MIT. When you learn how to manage your conflicts, you are able to help your advisees with similar challenges.