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Conflict Management training is always a worthwhile course in any business. Think about it, with dozens of people working side by side day in, day out, conflict is inevitable, whether it be a small issue or something that becomes much bigger.
If you are offering conflict management training, these 5 activities should be useful for you. Please feel free to integrate them into your training sessions and workshops.
1. The Active Listening Conflict Management Activity
One of the most common reasons for conflict starting in the first place is because one or more people have not actively listened. Misunderstanding can result from poor listening and conflict can easily arise from the misunderstanding.
Activity: 15 minutes.
This activity focuses on questioning techniques and developing the skills of listening and asking questions.
1. Ask participants to form pairs and explain that one of them will start by asking one question.
2. The other person will then either just answer the question or answer and follow up with another question, but which must build on the previous question. So, they cannot change the topic. The follow-up question must be connected to the previous question.
3. The challenge is to see how long they can continue the dialogue for using just one question as a foundation for the conversation.
4. Give them up to 4 minutes.
5. Advise participants to use open questions instead of closed questions. Closed questions are those that require just a yes or no answer.
For example, ‘Do you like coffee?’ the answer is usually either yes or no. Open questions start with ‘what’, ‘how’, ‘why’, ‘who’, ‘when’, ‘where’ and they usually require more than a yes or no answer.
For example, if you ask: ‘What drinks do you like?’ the person who answers can say a lot of things and elaborate.
6. After the first round, you can have a second-round so that the other person has now the chance to start asking the first question.
7. At the end of the two rounds, start a discussion. You can ask questions such as:
- How challenging did you find this activity?
- What did you learn from it?
- How could you use open questions during a conflict?
- How could this questioning technique help during a conflict?
Download this Conflict Resolution Activity for adults (PDF)
2. Debate vs Dialogue Conflict Management Activity
Activity: 20 minutes.
1. Ask the participants to work in pairs.
2. Ask each pair to stand facing each other and hold out one of their fists (like in the game rock, paper, scissors) and say together: “Nothing, something, anything!” Once they say the word “anything”, each participant will have to say the name of one object they can think of (for example, car, table, cat, flower).
3. Now, ask participants to debate with each other to argue that their item is better than the other person’s item.
4. Give them about 3 minutes to debate. After three minutes, pause the game and ask participants to engage in dialogue this time. This means asking each other questions about their items, listening to the answers and coming to an agreement between them. Allow them about 5 minutes for this.
5. At the end of the exercise, start a discussion with the whole class.
6. Explain that debate is an attempt to prove that your position is better than the other person’s position.
The aim is to ‘win’ over the other person by finding faults in the other person’s position.
A dialogue instead is about understanding and cooperation. The aim of the dialogue is to reach mutual understanding while valuing the strengths of the other person’s position.
7. Questions you can ask to start the discussion might include:
- How did you feel about each situation (debate vs dialogue)?
- How did you react to each situation?
- How would you behave in real conflict situations?
- How did things change when you switched from debate to dialogue?
- Is it difficult to listen when somebody disagrees with you? Why? How did you come to an agreement?
Download this Debate vs Dialogue Conflict Management Game (PDF)
3. The Positive Definitions Game Ice Breaker
Activity: 20 to 30 minutes.
Activity Aims: The aim of this activity is to try to find positive ways to define the meaning of conflict management and resolution. Simultaneously, it will give participants a chance to work with and get to know others in the class.
1. Separate participants into groups of 4 or 5 and give them a large marker pen and a large sheet of paper.
2. Inform the teams that they must answer the 3 questions:
- How would you define conflict management?
- What negative problems might be caused by conflict in the workplace?
- What positive outcomes can result from conflict in the workplace?
3. Ask then to write the titles ‘Definition’, ‘Negatives’ and ‘Positive’s’ and to list their answers under those headings.
4. The teams should agree with their team members what they consider the definition of conflict management is, before writing it on their sheet of paper.
5. After the allotted time is up, have one person from each group, say aloud to the class, what their definition and positives and negatives were, that they listed.
6. These sheets of paper can be taped to a board or somewhere in the classroom. to be viewed during the training.
Using Ice Breakers in Conflict Management Workshops
You can use any of our free ice breakers in your conflict management and conflict training session, although do remember the golden rule.
Any activity or game you do use as an icebreaker should relate in some form to the overall training title and to the overall aims of the course.
Having said that, for a topic such as conflict management, the ‘The Positive Definitions Game Ice Breaker’ above gets people working in teams from the start and fits in with the course title itself so this is quite a good starting activity.
Paul Symonds PhD
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