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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).
Communication is about connecting with others.

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

Healthy communication skills take practice. They are something we can build and develop.

Ways to improve your communication skills:

Listening is a key part of communication. Listening goes beyond just hearing what the person is saying. It is understanding what the person is saying. 

How to practice active listening:

  • Engage with the person and the conversation.
  • Pay Attention to what the person is saying.
  • Not Judging what the person is saying or their emotions.
  • Reflecting on what they are saying.
  • Asking Questions to clarify what they are saying or anything you are not sure about.
  • Summarizing what they have said.

This can help you understand what they are saying.


  • From what you are telling me, you feel…because of…Is that correct?
  • What did you mean by?
  • Can you tell me more about…?
  • I don’t quite understand…Can you explain it please?
  • Tell me about…

Nonverbal cues account for an estimated 70-90% of communication. We pay attention to how people act/speak when they are talking to us.

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 (how you say something)

Attending to nonverbal cues can help support what you are trying to say. When nonverbal cues do not line up with what a person is saying, it can be confusing or contradictory. It can look like you are lying or hiding something.

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 strong emotions come into the conversation, there is a communication breakdown. We cannot truly listen to the other person once our emotional response becomes elevated. Take a break when you feel yourself becoming upset or agitated.

This could be saying something like, “I need a break. I can feel myself getting upset. I would like to continue this conversation but I need a moment to calm down.

Distractions make it hard to focus on what the person is saying and truly be present in the conversation.

Think of a time when you have talked to someone who is on their phone, and they did not hear a work you said. Remove anything that will make it hard for you to pay attention.

This includes having enough time to talk to the person.

Talk to the person in a way they can understand. Be direct in what you are saying so it is easy for the person to understand.

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.

Connect with your loved ones! 

Disclaimer: There are some people who need to be doing something to better pay attention when people are talking. If that is you, let the person know you are still listening and you are actually trying to listen more effectively!

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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