Conflict resolution focus of communication workshop

By Paul Grigaitis, MVP Staff - Innisfail Province, Tuesday March 12, 2013

About a dozen locals attended the first session of a four-part, town-sponsored communication workshop focused on conflict resolution at the Library Learning Centre last week.

That's when chartered mediator and registered family mediator Alasdair MacKinnon of MacKinnon Communications Group encouraged participants to strive to understand others better in order to overcome conflict.

"Communications training is important because if affects all aspects of our lives - personal, professional, family - and we tend to take it for granted," MacKinnon said. "There are actual skills that we can learn to make our communication more effective and so I think it's very important to create awareness for people so that they can begin to work on developing those skills ."

MacKinnon defined conflict as any response to a perceived threat to our needs, our values or our beliefs. The main problem is that many people just don't listen properly, he said.

"There are all kinds of different aspects, but certainly active listening is one we tend not to be aware of. We tend to be thinking about what we are going to say. Even when people are talking to us, we're not truly listening to what they're saying. We're thinking actually in our minds what we're going to say next."

He said it's that ability to step back and truly engage in what other people are saying that can benefit most.

"One of the important ways to engage people in a conversation is to let them know that we are listening - to give verbal and non-verbal cues to tell them we are connected with what they are actually saying."

One way to do this is to summarize back to people what they are saying during a conversation, he added.

"During a conversation we'll kind of reflect back and kind of summarize what they've just said. They'll tell us if we are off track or not, but if you summarize something and they say, 'yes,' then you've got that bridge built.

MacKinnon's workshop was provided free to residents by the Town of Innisfail. Megan Cote is Innisfail's community facilitator.

"Everybody does face conflict in their lives, both in their home and at their workplace, and leraning to deal with that conflict effectively is really important to maintain healthy relationships and I think that filters into how well our community functions. So the Town of Innisfail asked Alasdair to put on this workshop in order to strengthen the communication and conflict resolution skills in our community," she said.

Cote also took part in the workshop as a participant. She believes this type of training benefits relationships at both work and home.

"It's really good to know how to communicate with people in our lives to make sure that your relationships stay healthy and that you come across kindly to others and that you can collaborate with others to make sure that the best possible outcomes happen."

MacKinnon said people may want to consider conflict resolution training if they find they have regular workplace problems. People may also want to consider training if they have trouble expressing themselves.

"If you find in your life that you have the same kind of recurring inter-relational problems."

MacKinnon's conflict resolution workshop continues in Innisfail each Wednesday night this month.