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Krauss and Morsella say that under the dialogic paradigm individual speakers act with respect to the individuals they are addressing, but they are acting as individual entities (p. 152). This is because we can only attempt to understand the mind of others, to decode their words, even their body language, and try to put that into a perspective of meaning to us as individuals. Krauss and Morsella provide points on how to improve our skills as communicators. Listening is tangential to being a good communicator. Listening trains us to hear more than words, but concepts too, and the concepts that others are trying to convey to us are essential to our understanding of their position in a conflict. Before we can resolve conflict, we must understand the nature of the conflict, and the nature of conflict can seldom be expressed in a few words or sentences. They are expressed in concepts, and this often takes much discussion to fully recreate what is envisioned for us as individuals, or comprehended as individuals, and to convey it to one or more others in a group. Listening helps us understand not just the points others are making, but how they are processing what we as individuals are attempting to convey to them.
Only when we listen carefully, and respond not around, but directly towards what is being said to us by others can we fully achieve and appreciate the art of communicating. Of course, as Krauss and Morsella point out, there is noise that comes into play that tends to distract or distort what we are attempting to listen to. Krauss and Morsella say that the noise can be intended, or not intended. Take for example the well-known problems that Henry Kissinger had in bringing all sides together to resolve the Viet Nam conflict. For months discussion was had around the shape of the conference table, whether it would be round, oval, or rectangular. This type of discussion, Krauss and Morsella suggest, is noise, and that it could be intended to distract the people coming together to resolve conflict. Discussing the shape of the peace conference table could have well been effort to stall the negotiations while one or more of the parties carried out their own agendas prior to having to discuss them in the negotiations, or, perhaps more importantly, before negotiated restrictions could preclude the agendas. As Krauss and Morsella comment, "communication becomes a continuation of conflict by verbal means (p. 154)."
Krauss and Morsella's principles of communication serve as easy exercises in becoming a better communicator. Since we are a society in whom the concept of conflict resolution is achieved through communicating, then we must learn to be better and active communicators. Krauss and Morsella encourage us to begin by listening, filtering out the noise, and paying attention to what others with whom we are communicating are saying. Even if we are not attempting to be group communicators, this principle will improve our own ability to communicate in whatever aspect of life we are pursuing.
The authors also encourage us to be active listeners. Actively listening requires cooperation, and the listener becomes a collaborator. Collaboration is essential to conflict negotiation. Often we think of the resolution of conflict as coming about as a result of groups coming together with the goal of resolving that conflict, but we probably do not think of them as collaborators because each side has a position. But actively listening, becoming a collaborator in the resolution of the conflict brings to the forefront the common goal of resolution. Perhaps we should refer to the parties involved in conflict resolution differently, as collaborators, instead of as Americans and Russians, or Israelis and Palestinians. Once they come together for conflict resolution, they are collaborators, putting the goal as the primary focus. They would cease to become Americans or Russians, Palestinians or Israelis, but their identity becomes molded into one as collaborators, thus allowing the task as defined by the term to become the bond between them throughout the negotiations. This takes us to Krauss and Morsella's sixth point:
"Focus initially on establishing conditions that allow effective communication to occur; the cooperation that communication requires, once established, may generalize to other contexts (p. 154)."
For some of readers, Krauss and Morsella take the miracle out of the concept of communications as a tool of conflict resolution. The given notion that communication is the magic key that opens the door to resolving any problem is dispelled. There are some problems, we learn by considering the four paradigms presented by Krauss and Morsella that will not be resolved by communicating for various reasons. People will sometimes go through the motions of meeting without the intent to resolve a problem. Sometimes problems cannot be resolved as is sometimes the case in marriage counseling. Sometimes people learn that their differences which are giving rise to conflict between them are so imbedded within the nature of who they are, that they cannot, and perhaps do not want to bring about change.
It is more difficult to consider that people are so different that they do not want to change in terms of the world community. There is always hope that people will find within themselves the humanity that drives them towards conflict resolution. Communication is the key to this as we enlarge our world community. We must learn to listen, to participate with one another as collaborators and resolve conflict. As we listen actively we are sure to begin to perceive one another as less different, and as being more interesting. We live in a richly diverse world, and the experiences and views of others should serve to stimulate our imagination and give rise to curiosity in ways that are healthy and bring us together not to resolve conflict, but to experience one another as different people who share our differences in ways that can be fun, enlightening, and in that the differences between us become less problematic.
Finally, Krauss and Morsella leave us with the tools to begin working towards becoming communicators. It is not difficult, and something that we can easily begin doing right away. To become an active listener, to be cooperative and a collaborator in communicating, we begin immediately. Listen to the person speaking to until they get to the end of what they are saying. Wait until the speaker gets to the period in the sentence or the paragraph. Take five seconds to consider what has been said, and then respond, limiting the response to the parameters of what was spoken by the speaker. What can we expect? We can expect a conversation, communication, to occur that resolves the problem of word meanings, because those meanings are being worked out by keeping the responses within the parameters of the conversation going back and forth. The conversation will most likely, according to Krauss and Morsella, expand, grow, and the people communicating will find that it becomes easier, the flow less practiced.
While communications might not be the way to solve all problems, as clearly there are those individuals and groups that even when engaged in two way communications, do not have the goal of resolving the problem in focus. However, as a world community continues to grow around, communication as a problem solving tool will become more important, and if we practice it keeping in mind Krauss and Morsella's four paradigms and their principles for improving one's skills as a communicator, the problems will become fewer and more succinctly focused as we approach them as collaborators.
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