Center for Mediation, Peace, and Resolution of Conflict, International, Inc.


Communication is one of the most important elements in our lives. Many of our problems occur because we do not communicate effectively. Ineffective communication is not only issuing a message without caring about whether it has been understood or assimilated or without waiting for a response. Effective communication consists of knowing how to listen, trying to understand what the other party is trying to say (not only verbally but also with gestures, tone and body language). Many times we do not listen—whether it is because we want to speak first, we are thinking

 about how we are going to respond before the other party is finished, we are not interested, we judge others, we are distracted, or we want to “win”.



Listening is making sure the other party knows that we care about what they are saying, maintaining good eye contact, remaining quiet, and letting them speak although you may disagree. To achieve this, our body should be facing the other party so that they are comfortable and they feel that they are important to us.


When we communicate with relatives, we always need to keep in mind “PAW.”

· Pay Attention

· Ask

· Wait

















Pay Attention

Active listening involves more than just hearing. It implies that you have the will to know and understand what the other party is expressing. For this we need to be sensitive and aware of not only the other party’s verbal language but their body language as well.



When you do not understand what the party is trying to express, it is best to ask questions until you completely understand. Do not be afraid of being seen as foolish. It is better to alleviate all doubts and misunderstandings in order to avoid future problems. If possible, paraphrase what you heard to see if what you understood is right.


Wait (Pause)

This means keeping quiet at times in order to give others the opportunity to speak and say what they think or feel. When talking, people often tend to try and dominate the conversation; we even ask and respond to our own questions. Often we believe we know what the other party thinks, believes, and what their motives are without allowing the other party to express themselves. Also, when having a conversation, a quiet place and a peaceful state are needed in order to express our ideas and emotions.


Text Box: And if we do not communicate well?  

Katherine, 20, comments that her mom is very controlling and does not permit her to make her own decisions.  Additionally, her brother uses blackmail regularly.  Katherine never expresses her discomfort and is very passive, which allows her problems and conflicts to build up, frustrating and aggravating her until she explodes.




How to Communicate Better:


Have the will to do it.

Observe body language to see if it corresponds to what the verbal message is saying.

Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and try to understand their point of view.

Ask questions if you do not understand something or if you have any doubts.

Acknowledge the virtues in others.

Avoid past issues or bringing up secrets, defects, or embarrassing issues to humiliate the other party. 

It is important to use “I” language. We can only really know what we think or feel and we should not guess at the feelings and thoughts of others. Do not be embarrassed by using this language. (It is not a sign of weakness or an opportunity for others to take advantage of you.)

We need to be conscious that we are not always right and that ideas from others can also be valid.

Avoid using threats, insults, or any kind of violence.

If you really want to salvage the relationship, let the other party know and propose finding solutions jointly.


For examples of effective and ineffective communication, click here.


Distinguishing Between Demands, Interests, and Needs


To solve a conflict, it is important to know how to distinguish between what our true demands, interests, and needs are, as well as those of the other party.


Demand: What you ask for or request in a conflict; what would be ideal to you. It may not be the same as what you are really interested in.


Interest: The real or underlying basis for the demand; what you really want and what is important to you.


Need: What you require to be fulfilled.


Many times these terms are confusing, but understanding the differences is of the utmost importance. Using the correct tools of effective communication will allow us to know our own interests and needs as well as the other party’s underlying basis for their demand. This way we will find common ground to reach agreements. Sometimes the common ground in an argument is not obvious because the demands are opposing. Yet if we look under the surface to the interests underneath, little by little we will recognize the commonalities. These will come up as we converse and negotiate.



Text Box:                                                                  
Demand: What you want 
(the orange)           

Interest: Why you want it
(juice, marmalade)

Need: What you must satisfy                                                                       (thirst, hunger)

Two sisters are in the kitchen and grab for an orange at the same time. Both want the orange and begin to fight over it (demand). Their fafther enters and says that they should simply cut the orange in half so that each sister gets an equal share (a sub-optimal solution). Just before they are about to divide the orange, their mother enters and asks why each sister wants the orange. The first sister says that she wants the juice, and the other says that she wants the peel to make marmalade (interests). For these purposes, they do not need to divide the orange. Instead, one uses the fruit and the other the rind. In this way, each sister satisfies their thirst and hunger, respectively (need).



To better clarify what has been said, read the following examples of intra-family conflicts and try to identify the demand, interests and needs of each party. The first one is an example for you; do the same for the second exercise.  


Rose and Tom are newlyweds. Every time they have a fight, Tom goes to his mother’s, who disapproves of Rose. Tom tries to find comfort and emotional support by telling his mother about the fight with Rose. Of course, this worsens the family’s opinion of Rose. When Tom returns home, Rose snaps at him and tells him she never wants to see his mother in the house again because his mother is biased against Rose. Tom responds by saying that he owns the house and he will invite his mother whenever he pleases.






Doesn’t want Tom’s mother to come over to their house.

Not being judged or attacked inside the safety of her home.

Security, acceptance.


Wants to be able to invite his mom anytime.

Keep good relations with his mom as well as his wife. Also, to have a space for himself when he feels vulnerable.

Control, emotional support.


Daniel and Stela are separating after seven years of an unhappy marriage. They have a daughter, Valerie, and each one is claiming custody.  Stela thinks Daniel gets angry easily and that his friends would be a bad influence on Valerie. Daniel was recently fired and is afraid that if Valerie does not live with him, he will not have enough money for alimony. He is also afraid that Stela would not use the money for Valerie’s benefit. Valerie wants both of them to forgive each other, stop fighting, and to go back to being a normal family.



























Now that you have learned all about communication, please take a few minutes to test your communication abilities. Please click here to go to the quiz.



Communication is the best way to prevent conflicts.“ Fernanda, 62