Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

You are here: ARS Home / About Us / ODEO / Communication Tips
Communication Tips
headline bar

 Office of Outreach, Diversity, and Equal Opportunity (ODEO)

Our Programs
The Cooperative Resolution Program (CRP)
Communication Tips

Creating Collaboration
Conflict Management Strategies
Needs Vs. Wants
Guidelines For Giving Effective Feedback
Tips For Active Listening
Understanding Different Cultures

Creating Collaboration
In most workplace and personal conflicts, collaboration is the most productive strategy. This takes energy, cooperation and time, but the results are well worth the investment.

Collaboration-building techniques:

1. Make sure the other person shares his or her needs and objectives. Understanding each other's needs and objectives is essential to successful collaboration. Explain yours and ask for theirs.

2. Stimulate information sharing. Signal your intent to collaborate by being open and honest. Explain that you want them to understand your position fully, and ask them to share information with you. Remind them that you are more likely to be able to help if you understand the situation more clearly.

3. Offer many alternatives. Signal your intent to find new and better ways to resolve the conflict by voicing many options and make it clear that you are not attached to any one option, but simply want to find a solution that works for all. Your behavior will encourage the other person to do the same.

4. Insist on a collaborative process before discussing solutions. If the other person presses for a commitment before engaging in open information sharing and joint problem-solving efforts, refocus the process. Explain that you are not ready to consider offers until we explore the problem more carefully.

5. Refuse to interact when emotions are high. Heated approaches to conflict lead to hasty solutions, not cooperative problem solving. When things get too hot, simply say you don't want to work on the conflict because emotions may get in the way. In most cases, your emotional leadership will bring the other person around. Remember, it takes patience to manage emotions.

6. Take a creative problem-solving approach. When you get the other person to agree to collaborate, remember that you need to work together to understand the issue better, and then to generate creative alternatives. Only when you have some real insights into the issue and some better alternatives should you switch gears and worry about which solution to adopt.

FORMAT:

Step 1. Explore the issue. Exactly what is the issue from each of your perspectives? Have either of you overlooked aspects of the issue, exaggerated the issue, or confused one issue for another? When you both commit to discussing and thinking about the issue itself, you often find new and better ways to look at it.

Step 2. Create lots of options. Since you are in conflict, you must have competing views of how to resolve the issue. Disagreement tends to cement these views, blinding you to alternatives. But are there other ways of thinking about the issue or the solution that might lead to competitive ways to solve it? Can you think of three more viable options? When you work together to create a solution, you can often come up with new options that give both parties better outcomes and are also better for the relationship between them.

Step 3. Agree to implement the best option. Collaboration ends when both parties feel they have discovered a resolution to their issue. When everyone agrees on a new and better approach, then you are ready to resolve the conflict for the benefit of all.
back to top

Conflict Management Strategies

• Accommodate (I Lose, You Win)
When you accommodate you put aside your needs and desires and give in to the other person's request or demands.

• Avoid (I Lose, You Lose)
When you prevent or postpone the conflict, the conflict remains unresolved and neither party wins.

• Compromise (We Both Win, We Both Lose)
You resolve the conflict quickly and efficiently by seeking a fair and equitable split between wants and needs. When you compromise, each side concedes some of their issues in order to win others.

• Compete (I Win, You Lose)
You seek to win your position at the expense of the other party losing theirs.

• Collaborate (I Win, You Win)
You cooperate with the other party to try and resolve a common problem to a mutually satisfying outcome. Each side must feel that the outcomes gained through collaboration are more favorable than the outcome they could achieve on their own. back to top

Needs vs. Wants
During the normal course of life, we all have come upon some very attractive and enticing items - a new sports car, expensive stylish shoes, a new stereo, etc., that we would like to have. We convince ourselves how much we really need these items and that we cannot go on without them. But do we really need them? Hey, we may need a new car, but not an expensive sports car. We may even need a new pair of shoes, but not necessarily those leather pumps.

Before resolving a workplace conflict we need to identify our needs and wants. Needs can be defined as something that is essential for your workplace productivity and efficiency. Needs are not something that you would easily sacrifice. It is important that we understand what those needs are and why they are important to us. For example, one individual may require a quieter environment (less extraneous noise) to concentrate than another. Important workplace needs include: respect, trust.

Wants are not as essential, but still important. We want an extra scoop of ice cream but there are consequences - loosening of the belt, the need to do more exercise the next day, etc. We want to win the lottery, but the odds don't change just because we want it. In the workplace, a want may be a negotiating tool. For example in a situation where someone is frustrated with not advancing in the organization, a realistic want might be training in a specific skill that might increase responsibility. Other wants may be: variety of assignments, specific assignments of interest

Once you have identified your needs and wants, prioritize them. Determine which is the best and most realistic.

Finally, convey this information to the other party. You can't come to a mutual agreement over an issue if you don't understand the motivations of all parties involved. It is essential to make them known in a manner that can be understood. Even more important is to convey as to why they are important to you. Keep in mind, the other person has wants and needs, too. In the context of achieving resolution, it is important that you have a mutual understanding of each other's needs.
back to top

Guidelines for Giving Effective Feedback

Preparation for giving it:
• Make it timely, either at the moment the behavior occurs or as soon as possible.

• Give it directly to the person displaying the behavior.

• Focus on behavior of the individual, not his/her character.

Giving it:
• State your reason for giving it - help them to understand.

• Make it specific, giving examples of what, when, where, etc.

• Define the impact on you and the organization - the consequences of the behavior.

• Use "I" statements as opposed to "You" statements to reduce defensiveness.

• Check to be sure your message has been received and understood. Give them an opportunity to respond.

• Offer specific suggestions. Ensure they are genuine and useful.

• Express your appreciation for listening to you, regardless of whether the person agrees with your feedback.

When receiving feedback:
• Breathe - it calms you.

• Listen carefully.

• Ask questions.
back to top

Tips for Active Listening

Examples of How to Use Active Listening Effectively
• Use your body language to say "I'm listening."

• Make frequent eye contact

• Keep your body oriented toward the speaker

• Nod your head

• Say "yeah", "uh huh," "I see," etc.

Ask questions
• Ask open ended, non-confrontational questions (no one likes to feel like they are being interrogated).

• Invite the speaker to tell more about their concerns, expectations, and interests.

• "Can you tell me more about...?"

• "What did you mean when you said...?"

Paraphrase
• Restate what the speaker has said in your own words

• Do not evaluate or judge

• Focus on the speaker

• Include both facts and feelings

• "So, you believe strongly that..."

• "The way you see it..."

• "You were very unhappy when..."

• "What I hear you saying is, you..."
back to top

Examples of What to Use - "I" Messages
• "I feel"
Appropriate, accurate disclosure of your feelings

• "...when you..."
Concrete, non-judgmental description of behavior
Direct and short, not blaming

• "...because..."
Description of the tangible negative effects
What it means or what it costs you

back to top

Examples of What to Avoid
• Accusations
you always...
you never...
why don't...

• Generalizations
you...
you're wrong...
what you need is

• Overkill
you stupid...
everybody knows...

• Label, Name calling
that!....
you'd better not...
you ought ...

• Sarcasm
to...
why did you...
don't you know...
you

• Moralizing
should...
if only you did it my way...
if...

• Assigning Motives
only you were more like me...

For additional conflict management information or mediation services please contact the Cooperative Resolution Program Staff at coopres@ars.usda.gov.
back to top

Understanding Different Cultures
• Create verbal and nonverbal rapport.

• Utilize effective listening skills.

• Own your own feelings - Use "I" statements.

• Observe and educate yourself regarding cultural differences in body language, confrontations, frankness in expression, and methods of fashioning solutions.

• Remember not every conflict involving people of different cultures is the result of a cultural problem.

• Model respect for different cultures.

• Do not ignore cultural conflict. Develop skills to confront issues that arise, and facilitate constructive problem-solving.

• Much can be learned from other cultures. Facilitate understanding and encourage constructive expression of differences. back to top


Last Modified: 11/26/2014
Footer Content Back to Top of Page