Building Relationships through Communication and Conflict Resolution

By Williams, Terri; Hawksley, Craig | Nation's Cities Weekly, August 9, 2004 | Go to article overview

Building Relationships through Communication and Conflict Resolution


Williams, Terri, Hawksley, Craig, Nation's Cities Weekly


Being able to communicate means so much more than knowing how to speak or write. Since most communication is nonverbal, the correct interpretation and usage of facial expressions, gestures and tone of voice becomes paramount to truly understanding one another.

Learning to read non-verbal messages from others leads us to awareness of our own postures and poses. Knowing these details of communication makes for better relationships with friends, partners, coworkers and the citizens you serve.

Good communication skills can lead to the resolution of conflict by anticipating it, deflecting it and turning a potentially tense/uncomfortable situation into one in which all parties win. Awareness of potential conflicts increases your chances of resolving it. When you are cognizant of the signals you send and are able to "read" the other persons' "subtext," positive communication will ensue. Powerful communication skills are only one of the tools that effective leaders have at their fingertips.

Another, often underutilized tool is conflict resolution. People feel that government is "us against them" instead of "we." Elected officials have a responsibility to lead by creating other leaders. They can do this by learning and applying conflict resolution skills in their everyday lives. Creating "win-win" situations starts with the small things, things that at first would seem inconsequential.

A citizen calls City Hall upset because they and their neighbors' sewers keep backing up; they are treated rudely by an employee; they demand to talk to the city manager or the mayor. …

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