Course Feature: Conflict Management
How do your conflicts typically play out? Do you sense there are patterns in your conflicts? Students in COMM 324 explore the causes, processes, and outcomes of conflict as well as the principles and techniques for improving the handling of conflict. Key topics include interpersonal violence, stress and anger management, forgiveness, negotiation, and mediation.
Though conflict might be hard to face for some people, Hector Gonzales, one of the course instructors, indicates it is important to learn to manage. He says, “The course exposes students to recognize that conflict, while considered by many as a negative experience, is a part of life and if managed properly could lead to stronger relationships and build self-confidence.”
Another of the course’s instructors, John Hetherington, adds that “conflict is not necessarily a negative process, and there are positive ways to engage in productive conflicts that help all parties achieve at least some of their goals.”
Gonzales explains the course applies to various settings, including how to deal with interpersonal relationships. “Therefore, it applies to family, social, and professional relationships,” he says. Hetherington adds that the course is relevant to students from a wide range of backgrounds. He explains, “Business students will find this course helpful in understanding office politics as well as the negotiation process. Students in the social sciences and human services will find this course useful in understanding interpersonal conflict and methods for managing it.”
According to Gonzales, the most significant takeaway for students is their changed perception about conflict and how to manage it., “I think they recognize they cannot control other people’s behavior, but they can manage how they react to a conflict situation,” he says.
Students have agreed with Gonzales’s assessment and have had positive reactions to the course. “The class is therapy for me because I recognize how I reacted to specific situations. I now try to respond logically rather than emotionally,” mentioned one student. Another added, “The class makes me want to be a better person. By reflecting on how my reactions made other people feel, I recognize the importance of empathy.”
Hetherington has enjoyed instructing COMM 324. ’I am consistently amazed by the depth and quality of our discussions, and the interesting and important conflicts that students share with me and one another,” says Hetherington “Learning to manage conflict is an ongoing process, and it is immensely gratifying to see that students put what they learn in the course to work right away and often see dramatic changes in their own conflict style and the results of those conflicts before the course even ends.”
Gonzales provides a similar view about the impact of the course on personal communication. “Although not geographically, the world is smaller because we are more exposed to other people and cultures,” he says.“Understanding the world around us will help us to communicate with others.” So, if you want to improve the relationships in your life, COMM 324 is the course for you.