Interpersonal Skills for
Dealing with Conflict: Respect
and Support in Action
Tricia S. Jones, Ph.D.
Dept. of Psychological Studies in Education
Jessica Jameson, Ph.D.
Department of Communication
North Carolina State University
Opening Discussion Exercise:
“Experience of Disrespect”
Think of a time in your professional
life when you felt disrespected by
- What was your relationship with the
- What did they say and/or do that was
- How did you respond to that behavior?
- How did the disrespect change your
relationship with this person?
STEP ONE: RECOGNIZING
THEIR IDENTITY NEEDS
We send three kinds of messages
that project our preferred identity.
Face Bids - Face bids indicate how we
want to be seen by the other. The
message is, „This is how I want you to
Altercasting Bids – Altercasting Bids
send a message about how I see you.
The message is, “I see you in this way.”
Relationship Bids – Relationship bids
are messages about how I see the
relationship we have. The message is,
STEP TWO: AVOIDING DISRESPECT
The clearest way to communicate
disrespect is to act as if the other
person does not exist or does not
have the right to assert his or her
identity. These behaviors are called
Indifference is one of the more
extreme forms of disconfirmation. It
includes physically ignoring the other
person and the bid he or she has tried
Nonverbally ignoring the other person
Refusing to respond to the other person (the
Being Impervious to the other is
another form of disconfirmation.
Impervious messages deny the other
deny the feelings of the other person
deny the other person‟s perceptions
deny the other person‟s ability to speak
for himself (you speak for the other – put
words in his mouth)
Disqualification is the most
sophisticated form of disconfirmation.
It looks like you are responding to the
other, because you are answering
her. But, your answer is crafted so
you don‟t really respond to the person
or their statements. Most people use
disqualification when they are in a
situation where they have to respond
in some form but do not want to
Forms of Disqualification
a receiver who denies that they are personally
responding (he answers “for” someone else)
a receiver who avoids addressing the other person
as a unique individual (she talks about a group the
person belongs to rather than the person)
an intentionally contradictory and/or unclear
response that is so confusing the hearer has no
clue how to interpret the message (he babbles or
a receiver who responds to a different message
than the one presented (she completely changes
topic or answers an unasked question).
STEP THREE: SEND
Confirming behaviors accept the other
person‟s identity as legitimate. They
send the message that you respect
the importance of this person and you
respect the person they want to be.
There are three kinds of confirming
Recognition confirms that “You exist
for me.” “I recognize you as an
important person.” Recognition can
be either verbal or nonverbal.
Nonverbal Recognition -- making eye
contact with them when they wish to engage
us, touching them when they‟ve
communicated a need for support, turning to
face them when talking.
Verbal Recognition -- We can also use
verbal communication to recognize the
other, verbally addressing the person.
Acknowledgement, which is usually
verbal, is a statement about
awareness of or interest in the other
person‟s perceptions, comments, or
questions. The key to acknowledgement is
that you can acknowledge the person’s
perceptions, comments or questions, without
agreeing with them.
Directly acknowledging the person‟s
statement or request
Asking for clarification
Directly acknowledging their feelings
Endorsement is confirming behavior
that sends the message “the way you
are feeling is OK, or the way you are
perceiving this is OK.” It is the
strongest level of confirming behavior
because it endorses or supports the
way they are experiencing the world.
Endorsement can be communicated
verbally or nonverbally.
Agreement with Judgments
Agreements with Feelings
Defensiveness, and Conflict
The way we confirm or disconfirm the
other person can send messages
about whether we respect or
disrespect their identity – who they
are and how they want to be treated.
When we feel that others are
threatening our identity, we engage in
defensive behavior to protect our self-
Think of a recent situation where you
felt you were becoming defensive in a
Why were you feeling threatened?
What was the other person saying or
doing that made you defensive?
What did you say or do in return?
How did these behaviors affect the
conflict? Did they help? Hurt? Why?
INTERDEPENDENCE AND CONFLICT
People do not have conflicts with
others they don‟t need.
Interdependence is complicated by
what Deborah Tannen has termed the
“paradox” of involvement and
independence. While all human
beings have needs for involvement
with others and feelings of
acceptance, we also want to feel that
we are in control of our own destiny
Discussion Exercise: Interdependence
between Teachers and Parents
Talk to your partner about the
interdependence that exists between
teachers and parents.
What do parents need from teachers?
What do teachers need from parents?
Do members of these groups always
recognize their interdependence?
DEFENSIVE AND SUPPORTIVE
Some communication strategies
produce defensiveness and some
Evaluation v. Description
Control v. Problem
Strategy v. Spontaneity
Neutrality v. Empathy
Superiority v. Equality
Certainty v. Provisionalism
Evaluation Versus Description
Evaluative language judges,
quantifies, or accuses
Descriptive language focuses on the
Control Versus Problem
Control messages impose one
person‟s views on an other without
concern or interest in what the other
thinks or feels
Problem orientation signals respect
and the desire to make a decision or
find an agreeable solution
Strategy Versus Spontaneity
Strategic communication refers to a
speaker with an agenda or ulterior
Spontaneity, in the sense of honest
and forthright communication, refers
to a speaker who shares thoughts
and feelings openly
Neutrality Versus Empathy
Neutral communication does NOT
offer a diplomatic point of view on an
issue –it conveys indifference to the
Empathy involves understanding and
appreciating the other‟s feelings
Superiority Versus Equality
Superior communication sends the
message that all others are inferior or
inadequate in some way, therefore,
the speaker has no interest in what
they might say
Equality in communication sends the
message that the other is valued and
worthy as a human being
Certainty Versus Provisionalism
Certainty: People who believe they
are right and communicate this clearly
incite defensiveness in others
because they come across as narrow-
minded and unwilling to listen to
another point of view
Provisional communication involves
acknowledging other points of view
“I may not agree, but you‟re entitled to
your own opinion.”