Do youth need conflict resolution skills? Part 3: Listen and communicate

Help youth learn to resolve conflict by teaching them to listen and communicate without placing blame.

Unresolved conflict can destroy an individual's self-esteem or damage a group's capacity for teamwork. Helping youth learn how to deal with unresolved conflict can help them learn how to communicate their ideas and opinions in a way that adds value to future collaborative efforts.

Common tips to help youth resolve conflict:

  • Step back and think.
  • Understand your goals for the conversation.
  • Listen to understand.
  • Communicate your feelings without placing blame.
  • Be aware of your own defensiveness.
  • Acknowledge your assumptions.
  • Seek common ground.
  • Understand the other’s point of view by asking clarifying questions.
  • Know that conflict can be healthy.
  • Separate people from problems.

So how do we help youth effectively address conflict? Listening to really understand is crucial for conflict resolution. Often when listening we may be forming our response and just waiting to reply. When individuals feel their opinion has truly been heard, they are much more likely to really listen and try to understand another’s viewpoint. Individuals who feel their opinions have been heard are less likely to view the conflict negatively and are more likely to work towards a solution.

It is also important to recognize that when you have strong feelings, it may be difficult to really listen. Using “I-statements” such as “I feel” to share your perceptions, but not placing blame, is important in communicating through conflict. By stating a feeling as opposed to a judgment statement, others are less likely to see your views as placing blame.

You can help youth learn to listen for understanding and communicate their feelings without placing blame. Encourage youth to repeat what the speaker said in their own words to be certain they didn’t just listen, but really heard and understood the information. Provide youth the opportunity to practice using “I-statements” when in a group setting. Helping youth develop listening and communication skills will provide them with the tools to navigate conflicts and better prepare them to be a valuable member of a team.

This is the third article in a series discussing conflict resolution with youth. The Michigan 4-H science team understands the value and importance of teamwork. Helping youth develop the ability to successfully resolve conflict is an important skill for future success in science and in life.

For more ways to share science with youth in your life, please explore the Michigan State University Extension Science and Engineering website. For more information about 4-H learning opportunities and other 4-H programs, contact your county MSU Extension office.

Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan 4-H Youth Development program help to create a community excited about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). 4-H STEM programming seeks to increase science literacy, introducing youth to the experiential learning process that helps them to build problem-solving, critical-thinking and decision-making skills. Youth who participate in 4-H STEM are better equipped with critical life skills necessary for future success. To learn more about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth in STEM literacy programs, read our 2015 Impact Report: “Building Science Literacy and Future STEM Professionals.”

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