Effective Communication &

Conflict Management Training

Setting the Container

Land Acknowledgment

In New York, we are on the ancestral land of the Lenape people.

We say this to acknowledge that, no matter when or how we personally arrived on this land, we each have a relationship to the life and the pain that this ground has been witness to.

Let us take a moment to reflect on the responsibility of that relationship.

Let us be stewards of this land and make a connection to it that allows us to leave it better off than when we arrived.

If you’d like to learn more you can go to these links to get a deeper understanding.

New York Center for Interpersonal Development, Inc.


  • We believe in building community and nurturing personal growth.
  • We believe effective communication is the cornerstone of healthy relationships and a just society.
  • We believe helping people understand their emotions is the key to helping them successfully communicate through conflict.

Expectations: I Am Because We Are

On our journey together, we need to establish how we will work together – we need to establish the right expectations.

Our restorative and inter-cultural lessons taught us the beautiful term Ubuntu (Pronounced – oo-buun-too).

Ubuntu – is a Nguni Bantu term meaning “humanity” – sometimes translated as “I am because we are” and also “I am because you are.”

You can’t be humanity all by yourself

Set the Container is a restorative term used to describe how our sessions will be conducted.

It describes the commitments we choose to make to an another for how we will hold space and for how we will work together.

-You are here ~ Be present ~ Be Kind ~ Treat others how you want to be treated.

-What is heard here stays here. What ever is learned here leaves here.

-Let perfection go and share your experiences – We must work together and learn from one another in order for our process to be fulfilling.

-Remember impact over intention – As shared we often have the best intentions and we do not always realize the impact our actions have on others. When you get a reaction you were not expecting say “ops” and if you are on the receiving end say “ouch.”

-Notice our own biases and judgments – We all have them. Let’s not ignore them!

-Realize our privilege – It exists and is based on different seen and unseen identities we hold – we deepen our connections to one another when we acknowledge as much.

-Practice self-care and community care – Take care of yourself – when done right – you will take care of others!

If there are objections and or additions to the above list – let us discuss them together.

The Talking Piece

  • Talking pieces serves as a visual reminder that only the person in possession of the talking piece has the floor.
  • Talking pieces helps resolve the issue of one person dominating the discussion.
  • They encourage active listening and provide a focus on the one point being made at that time.

The First Circle

You will be handed the talking piece as we go around the Circle.

Please share:

  • Your name
  • Why are you here
  • Your Emotional Weather Report

Feel free to pass the talking piece if you do not wish to share.

Tools to use Immediately

The Four Human Endowments

The And Stance shows us that we all see conflict through our own perception and level of understanding.   Saying “Yes, and…” instead of “yes, but,” helps for both people in the difficult conversations to be more accountable and to be more respectful of each other’s positons.

Defining Trauma: Together


  • Defining Conflict
  • Understanding How Emotions Are Made
  • Understanding Needs and Personality (and Fears)
  • Understanding the Anatomy of Difficult Conversations
  • Understanding Effective Communication Techniques
  • Understanding Effective Feedback Techniques
  • Understanding De-escalation techniques

Defining Conflict

Tool ~ Taking Sides Activity


What did it feel like to have to give up your words and accept that the consensus chose, needed, or wanted other words?

Conflict is a fact of life. It is natural and inescapable within every relationship, as no group of people will share identical values, wants, needs, and ideas. Whether within ourselves, our group of friends, or our family, everywhere we look, we can find conflict out in the open or lurking beneath the surface.

Conflict is Dimensional

One of the most important essential skills we can all learn is how to communicate through conflict. When your emotions are high and your stress levels are putting an incredible amount of pressure on your body, knowing how you naturally deal with adversity will help you create the space to have responses instead of reactions in the heat of a tense moment.

Conflict Styles


What is moving in you when you consider the conflict style paradigms?

How do you think this might improve your ability to communication through conflict?

Concept~ Generative Social Fields


The Social Field is the natural, pre-given structure of relationships among individuals, groups, organizations and systems that give rise to collective behaviors and outcomes.


All human beings participate in co-creating the complex social contexts they live in and engage with.

Our emotional systems help us maintain balance.

Life is challenging when we interact with the emotional systems of others.


We have the ability to co-create a generative social field in which we facilitate deep conversations about big issues, and shape a safe and supportive climate where individuals in our teams/systems can feel emotionally safe, connected and respected.


There is always a social field, either generative or degenerative depending on how people are showing up.

~ Qualities of Generative Social Fields ~

Take in the words on these two hands to get a better sense of what Generative Social Fields are and what the word Generative means.

A Thought Experiment

Take a moment to consider the Social Fields you exist in.

For example – NYCID is a social field. Another might be your family.






  • How do you contribute to your social fields?
  • In what ways are you making generative contributions?
  • In what ways might you be degenerative?
  • What might you take away from these spaces?

Understanding How Emotions are Made

Do you ever feel like you’re jumping through hoops? Or that your life is on one big loop?

As we move through life, we usually begin to see the patterns in our thoughts and feelings. These patterns almost always come from things we need, like safety and security or a sense of belonging or they come from things we do not need like stress and conflict.

As we have more experiences we make more connections, and as we make those connections we see that our lives are a circle of Thinking, Feeling, and Being.

And what are we doing with these emotions, feelings, moods, temperaments, and personality traits? Where are we stuck? What do we wish to improve, change, or grow? 

“Warning: when feelings become the means of thinking, or if we cannot think greater than how we feel, we can never change. To change (or improve) is to think greater than how we feel. To change is to act greater than the familiar feelings of the memorized self.” JD.

Limitless Emotions

A Thought Experiment

Due to the incredible amount of stress we find ourselves under in our 21st century world, we each battle with a great many limiting emotions. The first step in improving our state of being and more effectively managing our emotions is to identify which emotions we are unconsciously allowing to invade and rule our lives. Then we do the work of unwiring those mental connections and rewiring the unlimited.

Spend a little time now considering the limited emotions you are addicted to and the behaviors that might be perpetuating those emotions.

Then spend some time considering at least one unlimited emotion that you are going to manifest.

Remember: the Thinking and Feeling Loop is happening non-stop and the only way to interrupt the connection is to think greater than your state of being.

Do this in our workbook now.

Our Harvest

What are you feeling right now? What is one thing that is staying with you?



Tool ~ Ladder of Connectedness

As humans, we feel almost as though we belong when there is a deep emotional connection with others. The more we can create opportunities to deepen our connectedness with others, the more satisfying our relationships can be. When we can do this, it becomes not about you but not me.

It becomes about MWe – that’s the ME and the WE together.

The Ladder of Connectedness is a model showing the varying stages of connectedness we regularly experience with others. Through a self-reflective practice, we can begin to recognize how we’re showing up in the social field, how we might relate to others in a particular circumstance, and ultimately consider how we might move “down the ladder” toward a more compassionate stance.

Understanding Needs and Personality

Take a minute to consider how many times a day you are thinking about everything you need in your life.

Activity: What Do You really Need?

Getting to Know Yourself and Others

Now let’s get you a bit more information about people.

Needs-Interests-Positions (Strategies)

Circle Up – Got Needs

  • Share one or more of the needs you selected
  • Share why you feel strongly about it (them)

Understanding the Anatomy of Difficult Conversations

  • Substance.
  • Who said what, who did what?
  • Who intended what?
  • What did you each contribute to the problem?

Your perceptions are valid but partial. Inquire into theirs.
Approach: Listen

Take responsibility for your contribution, but not theirs.
Approach: Focus on contribution and improving the future, not blaming for the past

Speak to impact on you. Inquire about your impact on them.
Approach: Distinguish between intent and impact. Focus only on what you know (impact
on you), not what you guess (their intent)

  • My feelings.
  • Their feelings.

Difficult conversations do not just involve feelings, they are at their very core about feelings. The
question is not whether strong feelings will arise, but how to handle them when they do. To what extent
should we try to get rid of them, rationalize them, or accept and share them? Understanding feelings,
talking about feelings, and managing feelings are among our greatest challenges.

When others express feelings:
➢ Listen and acknowledge before problem-solving
➢ Don’t try to “fix” their feelings: Give them space
➢ Look behind the significantly expressed emotions for deeper hidden emotions
➢ Re-translate: hear judgments and attributions as expressions of feeling.

  • My self-image.
  • Their self-image.

The Identity Conversation looks inward – at who we are and how we see ourselves. How does what happened to me affect my self-esteem, my self-image, my sense of who I am in the world? What self-doubts do I harbor? Am I competent? Am I a good person? Am I worthy of love?

When others are reacting strongly and you think they are struggling with an Identity issue:
➢ Acknowledge and respect the identity struggle
➢ Check-in with person to see if his struggle is something to put on the discussion table
➢ Create safety and space for the person experiencing the struggle

Once you know it, you cannot unknow it.

You might try to ignore it.

And it is still there.

There is no right or wrong.

There is only how I experienced the situation

And how you experienced the situation.

Consensus can only follow if we are working together to understand those experiences.

Choosing a Purpose – what action will you take, and what will you do?



Problem Solving

Listen first to understand, then to be understood. You almost never know everything you need to know about the situation. Seek out the pieces of the puzzle you don’t have.

You are an unparalleled expert on you. So, speak for yourself and how you are experiencing the problem. Consider sharing your perspective, interests, feelings, and requests.

You take the lead. Once you have listened to their views and expressed your own, then you should proceed to problem solving. Ask: “Can we find a way to move forward that works for both of us?”

Understanding Effective Communication Techniques

Finding the Feeling Activity

Open Ended Questions

Tool ~ Evocation Interviewing

It’s one thing to be able to feel your emotions, feelings, and mood and to learn to put words to each for one’s self – to create an emotional fluency which allows you to better understand your human experience.

It is entirely another thing to be able to have the confidence to share your experiences with others using this vocabulary. This tool helps us better describe our experiences by challenging us to use of senses to breath life into our memories and to help others feel what we may have felt.


To understand what the speaker is saying
To help the speaker clarify his or her own thoughts and feelings
To let the speaker know you have heard and understood
To help others present to hear and understand the speaker

Three Quick Tools

Take a moment to journal on any one of these three tools. 

Ask yourself: 

  • Do I often feel attacked when I am engaged in a difficult conversation? 
  • Do I look to attack the other person? 
  • How might it feel to understand the other person is feelings in my next argument? 
  • What might I have to do to find the patience to listen? 

Feedback – Let’s Face it

Benefits of Receiving Feedback Well

Your relationships become richer.

You learn and get better at things.

Other people find it more enjoyable to work around you.

It is easier for you to work with others to solve problems.

By your example, you help others see the value in seeking feedback for themselves.




You are giving thanks and encouraging yourself to keep doing what you are doing. For it to be effective, it needs to be specific, authentic, and in a form that you find satisfying.

Showing you a better way to do something to help you grow. Coaching can be related to improving your skills or fixing a perceived imbalance in a relationship. (Note: Grace uses the word coaching to mean the act of listening and asking questions to help a person discover the best way forward.)

Tells you where you stand compared to a standard or compared to others. Evaluation aligns expectations and clarifies consequences.

Wrong Spotting

Truth Triggers

Relationship Triggers

Identity Triggers

Truth Triggers are set off by the substance of the feedback itself—it’s somehow off, unhelpful, or simply untrue.

In response, we feel indignant, wronged, and exasperated.

We resist feedback if we think the person giving it has questionable motives or lacks credibility. Also, how the person delivers the feedback may cause us to resist. Instead of hearing what the person is saying, we focus on our issues with the person.

We resist feedback when we perceive an attack on who we think we are. Our brain’s survival functions cause us to move toward pleasurable things and away from painful ones. The brain gets confused when it faces short-term pain necessary for long-term gain or short-term pleasures that produce long-term pain.

50% Emotion

40% Story

10% Situation

Put simply, we must look for strength to say – tell me more than the ease of simply saying what we are hearing is wrong.  The goal is to come to understand what is different about the data that we each have which we call different spotting.


The topic of “who” defeats the topic of “what,” and the original feedback is blocked. We call this dynamic Switchtracking.

Relationship triggers produce hurt, suspicion, and sometimes anger.

For Example:

You don’t like a particular food and your partner keeps surprising you with the meal for takeout.

You say, if you are going to keep getting takeout I need you to know that I really don’t like this food.

Your partner says, Okay, I understand but you should have thanked me first for getting the food.

Let’s Face It Activity

A Simple Method to Offer Feedback

Thought Experiment

Consider a situation you have in any relationship.

In your journal use SBI to give feedback.

A Challenge For Us All

Go to someone you have established trust with and ask them what one thing they feel you can work on.

Understanding De-escalation techniques

1. Ignore the words being spoken.

2. Guess at the emotions.

3. Reflect the emotions with direct, declarative statements. (For example, “You are angry, frustrated, and sad.”)

• Affect Labeling

• Emotions: Affect and Feelings

• Emotional Categorization

• Emotional Granularization

• Alexithymia

1. Affect: What is happening in the brain

2. Feeling: What is happening in the body

Emotional Categorization: Our life experiences dictate our Affect and Feeling. We use them as a shorthand to categorize and take action.

Emotional Granularization:

Emotional granularity describes the detail with which we can label an emotional experience. People differ in their degree of emotional granularity.

Alexithymia:  People who experience alexithymia cannot express their emotions with any degree of precision or depth. They lack emotional granularity.

Grow Your Presence

1. Be Mindful

2. Focus on Congruence

3. Listen to Your Inner Voice

4. Be Aware of Your Personal Energy

Circle Up - How are MWe?