Your Study Guides and Strategies starts here!

In your dwelling,
live close to the earth.
In thinking, keep it simple.
In conflict,
be fair and generous.
In governing,
don't try to control.
In work, do what you enjoy.
In family life,
be completely present.
Laozi/老子
Tao Te Ching/道德經
Chinese, 6 Century BCE

Cooperative learning series

Conflict resolution, a case study

Exercise text:

Johnny and Ken share an apartment.
For the past week Ken's friend has stayed over every night.
This affects Ken's sleeping, and he didn't do well on a test one morning.

Using good conflict resolution skills, work though Johnny and Ken's issue and resolution to the problem.

Select what you think is the best italic option and read the answer:

Hey Ken, can we talk about your friend spending nights here and how it's affecting me?

Hey Ken, why does your friend have to stay here all the time?

Johnny grabs Ken by the shoulder and tells him he's tired of this.

Johnny first asks Ken if they can talk about the issue without challenging him on it.
Johnny summarized it clearly, without being offensive or attacking.

The second question is more attacking and catches Ken off guard and he is likely to respond in a negative, defensive manner.

The third option is totally inappropriate since it is more like a physical attack, and doesn’t even refer to the issue!

"Sure, what's up Johnny?  You said you were chill with it before..."

I know we agreed it was ok. But last Thursday I wasn't able to sleep and so didn't do well on my test Friday morning. I'd really appreciate it if we could work something out.

Yeah I changed my mind, he stays too often and I don't like it!

Johnny should push Ken for reminding Johnny he was OK with it.

The first answer is best: Johnny first acknowledges that he has changed his view, and has then given a specific example as to how this is affecting him. He is trying to help Ken understand his point of view.
Keeping a calm tone encourages cooperation.

It is also important to have the goal of a compromise in mind. If Johnny is vague, or doesn't provide good examples or reasons, it is harder for Ken to understand him.

Both may then become defensive, and stop listening to each other. Johnny should instead remain calm and provide specific examples as to how it is affecting him.
He is applying good feedback

Remember:  the one who initiates the conversation, has responsibility to guide the situation to a good solution.

The third response is totally in appropriate since it is a physical attack.

"Hey Johnny, your test scores are bad because you play video games all day!"

Please don't change the subject, Ken. I don't mind that you friend visits but I would really appreciate some kind of compromise.

What?! Who says I am getting bad test scores! I just need a good night's sleep!

Johnny punches Ken for insulting him.

The first answer is the best:  It is hard to stay calm when the other person begins to bring up or attacks you with other issues.
However, staying on subject and remaining calm helps a lot when dealing with conflict resolution.
The burden of controlling the conversation should stay with Johnny who initiates it since Ken is not prepared, and may not know how to react or bring up topics that he thinks relate…

So Ken was wrong in changing the subject out of his frustration since Johnny may have caught him off his guard. Johnny however should stay on subject and stay calm. And violence is never an option and a good way to ruin a friendship.

"OK, I'm sorry, Johnny. If his visits are really bothering you, I can try to be flexible."

Thanks for understanding. I feel like it has been especially hard for my 8:00 class on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

Ken, you should pick five nights next month that your friend can stay over!

Johnny shrugs and does not listen or accept that Ken is trying.

The first is best. First of all, it is good to recognize that Ken has done two things:
He has acknowledged that he changed the subject. Secondly he elaborates on what is bothering him (lack of sleep and poor performance on studies).

Johnny, though his body language, voice, and eye contact should pay attention to what Ken is saying, and give positive reinforcement to any helpful gesture he makes.

The second option is not bad even though we could interpret it as offering an alternative.  Johnny should not tell Ken what to do when trying to resolve a conflict without out offering a compromise. This causes resistance and hard feelings. Instead he should try to be considerate of the Ken's feelings and viewpoint, and work into a solution with him.

Last option? Practice active listening.

"Well Johnny, maybe I can ask my friend to not come over before your classes on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays."
"That’s great Ken, and I can end video games by midnight on Wednesdays and play somewhere else on Friday nights."

Here they have both built in a compromise. Johnny has offered something even though it was not the issue, but rather a gesture. Notice that Ken has taken the lead and made the first step, and Johnny is quick to acknowledge the gesture and offered something even if he did not consider it part of the issue.

Johnny could have just refused Ken, or told him that it was his problem. But by working together they both benefit.

A collaborative conflict resolution process will not eliminate tension in a relationship immediately, but over time, eliminating the source of tension, and overcoming difficulties can result in growth for all of us.


Cooperative learning series

Collaborative learning | Group projects | Active Listening |
Conflict resolution | Case study: conflict resolution | Peer mediation |
Tutoring guidelines | Using feedback with tutors