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Communication and Conflict Resolution

Building Relationships Through Communication

Communication allows us to share what we think, how we feel, what we want, and what we expect. It helps us to share our emotions, feelings, and thoughts. Good communication helps us build our relationships with family and friends.

  • Verbal Communication is based on our words.
  • Nonverbal Communication is communication based on our actions (eye contact, body posture, gestures, facial expressions, voice tone, and voice volume).


Types of Communication

Aggressive Communication is when a person is expressing their needs, thoughts, and feelings in a manner that attacks the position and dignity of the receiver.


  • Yelling angrily
  • Confrontational body language
  • Grabbing the other person
  • Being rude
  • Angrily swearing at the other person


It can cause the other person to feel uncomfortable, scared, and unable to speak up.


Passive Aggressive Communication is when a person is expressing their needs, thoughts, and feelings in an indirect manner. It is delivered in a way that allows the sender to maintain a façade of kindness even though their intentions are not kind.


  • Sarcasm
  • Backhanded comments (“Oh, you look very nice… for you.”)
  • Rolling eyes
  • Their words do not match their tone
  • Does not directly talk about the topic
  • Blaming others (“Well, if someone hadn’t lost their keys, we would have been here on time.”)


It can cause the other person to feel confused and frustrated.

Passive Communication is when someone is unable or unwilling to express their needs, thoughts, and feelings. They go along with what others say and do not speak up for themselves.


  • Closed off body language- hunched over, head down, etc.
  • Not confident
  • Non-confrontational


It can cause the other person to feel confused, uncomfortable, and want to give in.


Assertive Communication is when a person is expressing needs, thoughts, and feelings in a direct manner that does not attack the receiver but rather upholds their dignity. It is the key to positive conflict resolution.


  • Confidently expressing needs
  • Straightforward and non-threatening
  • Open body language
  • Looking in the eye
  • Calm
  • Clear tone of voice


The other person can feel heard, understood, and hopeful for a solution.


“I” Statement is a way of phrasing our communication where we use “I” sentences to state how we are feeling and how the behaviour/action that happened made us feel. We can use it to offer solutions for next time.

Three parts to “I” Statements:

  1. Focusing on how you feel
  2. Describing what happened (the action or behaviour)
  3. Offering a solution to the problem


For example, “I am feeling very frustrated. I do not like you wearing my clothes without asking. I know I usually let you wear my clothes, but I would appreciate it if you asked first.”

Improving Communication Skills

Communication skills take practice. The good news is there are ways to improve your communication skills!

Ways to improve your communication skills:

Listening is key for good communication. Active listening is engaging with the person and paying attention to what they are saying. It is not judging the person but reflecting on what they have said and asking questions for clarification. It is summarizing  what the other person is saying. This can help you to understand the main themes of what they are saying.

  • Examples:
  • So what I am hearing is…and… Is that right?
  • It sounds like you are feeling…
  • Okay, let’s see if I understand this correctly….Did I get that right?
  • Tell me about…

Nonverbal cues account for approximately 70-90% of communication. We pay attention to how people act/speak when they are talking to us. Have you ever had a fight or heard someone say, “It’s not what you said, but how you said it!”? That is part of nonverbal cues.

Nonverbal cues include:  

  • Facial expressions
  • Posture/movement
  • Gestures
  • Eye contact (This depends on culture- some cultures make eye contact and others do not.)
  • Touch
  • Space
  • Tone/volume of voice (think, it’s not what you say but how you say it)

Mastering nonverbal cues can help you convey what you are trying to say. This can help to support what you are saying.

When our nonverbal cues do not line up with what you are saying, it can be confusing or contradictory. It can look like you are lying or hiding something from the person.

How are you coming across? What is your body language saying to the person?

Pay attention to your own emotions and nonverbal cues. For clear communication, it is important to express your emotions appropriately.

When we have strong emotions, it is really hard to communicate well. It is hard to listen when we have an elevated emotional response. If you feel yourself becoming really agitated or upset, take a break.

It could be something as simple as saying, “I need a breather. I can feel myself getting really upset and I want to hear what you are saying, so I need a break for a few minutes.”

Distractions are…well, distracting. They make it hard to listen and pay attention.

Have you ever talked to someone who is on their phone and they don’t hear a word you are saying? Our brains cannot give full attention if we are paying attention to something else.

When you are talking to someone, give them the attention and focus they deserve. Put your phone away (unless that is how you are talking to them), go to a private place if necessary, and make sure you have time to talk.

Talk to the person in a way they can understand. For example, the way you talk to your friends may not be the same way you talk to a parent or guardian. Be direct in what you are saying so the person can easily understand what you are saying.

Dealing With Conflict

Conflict is a disagreement (difference of opinion) between people or groups. It can be big or small, and the outcome depends on how we respond, manage our emotions, and choose to resolve the conflict.

Conflict Resolution is how to respond to a conflict, instead of reacting to the conflict.

Four steps to responding to conflict:

  1. STOP- take a few breaths. Remove yourself from the situation. Pause before hitting send or replying to messages.
  2. THINK- think about what you want and what the other person wants. Use empathy to try and understand the other person’s point of view.
  3. FEEL- recognize your feelings. Are you mad, angry, or sad? Make sure you are in control of your feelings and emotions. If you don’t feel in control, go back to Step One and take some time to step away from the conflict and come back later.
  4. ACT- work to resolve the conflict. When we see conflict as a natural and normal part of our interactions with others, we can focus on finding a solution, rather than deciding who is right or wrong.

Further Resources

If you would like to speak to someone about mental health issues, the Alberta Health Services Mental Health Help Line is available 24/7, offering information and referrals on any aspect of mental health.

Call toll-free: 1-877-303-2642

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