Do youth need conflict resolution skills? Part 5: Common ground and viewpoint

Help youth with resolving conflict by teaching them to seek answers through clarifying questions.

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. Some common tips to help youth resolve conflict include:

  • Stepping back and thinking
  • Understanding your goals for the conversation
  • Listening to understand
  • Communicating your feelings without placing blame
  • Being aware of your own defensiveness
  • Acknowledging your assumptions
  • Seeking common ground
  • Understanding the other’s point of view by asking clarifying questions
  • Knowing that conflict can be healthy
  • Separating people from problems

So how do we help youth effectively address conflict? In any situation that has resulted in conflict, we typically spend the majority of time focusing on the areas in which both parties disagree. It is equally important to remember there are often areas on which both parties agree. Seeking this common ground can help reduce defensiveness in both parties and allow them time to develop a solution to the conflict.

It is also valuable to understand what is important to others by listening and asking clarifying questions; this shows you value their opinion even if you don’t agree with them. The real root of a conflict may be buried under emotions and misunderstandings. By asking questions, the true conflict should become clearer, making resolution possible. It is important to realize people usually only see their own solution to an issue. By asking clarifying questions, you can help all parties involved develop a better understanding of all the viewpoints. Seeing all sides of a conflict should get you one step closer to resolving the issue.

You can help youth develop some skills to resolve conflicts by providing them with the opportunity to view the commonalities found on both sides of any issue. You can also present issues for youth to discuss and encourage them to ask questions so they better understand all points of view. Helping youth understand another’s point of view expands their frame of reference and gives them more ways to deal with difficult situations in the future.

This article is part of series discussing conflict resolution with youth. The Michigan State University Extension 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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