Books, Essays, Articles, Links, Scholarly Papers, Videos
and Teaching Materials on Interpersonal Communication Skills,
Conflict Resolution and Human Development

  Dennis Rivers, MA, Editor  

Open Source: Many items listed on this page are published by The New Conversations Initiative and are available free of charge and may  be reproduced under a Creative Commons copyright license. Look for the Creative Commons logo: 


Table of Contents

The Role of Dialogue in Resolving Community Conflicts (from PBS) Melinda Smith is a conflict resolution expert who has worked in Kalispell, Montana, to help the residents to come to an agreement about sharply contested land-use issues.

Positive Deviant is a magazine article about the transformative power of deep listening, as it occurred in a program to reduce child malnutrition in Vietnam.  It is one of the clearest examples I have ever read of what is now called “appreciative inquiry,” which advocates that helpers pay disciplined and systematic attention to the strengths, capacities and past successes of those people they wish to help.

Sandhi Institute  Nonviolent communication training and community building in war-torn Sri Lanka.

Beyond Intractability  (conflict resolution resources) Initially created by a team of more than 200 distinguished scholars and practitioners from around the world, the Beyond Intractability Knowledge Base is built around an online “encyclopedia” with easy-to-understand essays on almost 400 topics. These essays explain the many dynamics which determine the course of conflict along with available options for promoting more constructive approaches.

Please suggest great articles you have read for this section. Send suggestions via our CONTACT page.

On behalf of the world-wide cooperative communication skills extended community, I would like to express our deep appreciation for the contributions of our guest scholars and essayists, Leah Wells, (Ms.) Gene Knudsen Hoffman, Barnett Pearce, Sam Keen and David Richo.

Dennis Rivers, Editor


Seven Challenges Teaching Materials

The Seven Challenges Workbook and Reader  is available free of charge as a PDF file, a series of PDF files, and a series of web pages. (Printed copies available for purchase.)  (Dennis Rivers)


En Español:  Los Siete Retos 

Em Português: Os sete desafios 

Other languages:  volunteer translators wanted


A One-page Summary of the Seven Challenges

A single page version complete with the same color cartoon

illustrations that appear in the Workbook. (Dennis Rivers)

Web page edition of the one-page summary

Adobe Acrobat version

MS Word XP version (printable back to Word 97)

The Cooperative Communication EMERGENCY KIT

A one-page list of suggestions about how to manage

and resolve conflicts. (Dennis Rivers & Paloma Pavel)


What Kind of Person Am I Becoming?  What Kind

of People Are We Becoming Together?

Reflections on interpersonal communication and the journey of becoming a person. (Dennis Rivers)


Three Deep Lessons on the Road to Communicating More Compassionately  A 20-min talk by Dennis Rivers on the evolving

edge of communication skills learning and teaching.

Reflections on the Struggle to Be Honest

Honest conversations viewed as counseling  and counseling viewed as conversations that allow for honesty (Dennis Rivers)

The Geometry of Dialogue: A Visual Way of Understanding

Interpersonal Communication and Human Development

Drawings and book.  (Dennis Rivers) The page linked by the title above contains links to mandala-like flow charts in PDF format, and to my 210-page exploratory study.  This material was a major part of my graduate work toward an M.A. degree in interpersonal communication and human development, which I received in 1997 from the Vermont College Graduate Program.  The study is the theoretical foundation of the the Seven Challenges Workbook , (complete with more footnotes than anyone would ever want to read).  It is my effort to work out the communication training implications of current thinking in the field of human development, using visual models as organizing tools.

Mirror Neurons, Inverwovenness, and Empathy

New discoveries in science have big implications for communication and conflict resolution.  Here is a summary from best-selling author, Jeremy Rifkin.

For a large collection of resources on this topic, see the  Center for Building a Culture of Empathy .


Sam Keen on asking creative questions

Radical Questions For Critical Times by Sam Keen, teacher, writer of many books, and compassionate observer of the human drama.  This article explores questions that expand our horizons and deepen our engagement with life.  According to Dr. Keen, “Your question is the quest you’re on. No questions — no journey. Timid questions — timid trips. Radical questions — an expedition to the root of your being. Bon voyage.”

This article has been included as a reading in Chapter 5 of the Seven Challenges Workbook.  For more information about Dr. Keen’s books and workshops please visit



The late and very-much-missed
W. Barnett Pearce (1943 – 2011)

taught communication studies at major universities and wrote many books and papers on interpersonal communication and public dialogue.  His work continues in the hands of the many students and colleagues he nurtured, encouraged, and co-created with.  (You can see this unfolding at The CMM Institute for Personal and Social Evolution .)

(documents below are from the  web site)

MAKING SOCIAL WORLDS BETTER:  (PDF file)    Towards a grammar of ways of working that improve situations. [Great ideas, some sections difficult reading! Editor.]

Note:  In order to keep many footnotes and references in place, this article is only available as an Adobe PDF file.  If you have not yet installed the free Adobe Acrobat Reader on your computer, expand your online experience by downloading (and installing) it today from

Introductory excerpt from MAKING SOCIAL WORLDS BETTER:

A friend exclaimed, “What a wonderful world! Water falls out of the sky; food grows right out of the ground; and we get to keep all the love that we can make!”  In less exuberant terms, Richard Rorty described our social worlds as largely “contingent” and the quality of our lives determined by the consequences of our collective actions.  And so the question is, what kind of world are we making? What kind of world can we make?

Perhaps there was a time in which predators (the cave bear?), competitors (Neanderthals?) or cataclysms (the Flood?) threatened humankind (the species, not just an individual), but we have become the dominant life form on the planet and – within some broad limits – the collective authors of our own fate. The greatest threats we face, as well as our greatest opportunities, are the products of our own ingenuity, initiatives and actions. Among other things, this implies a dramatic shift from the technical question of “will we survive?” to the aesthetic and moral questions of “how well can we live?” and “how can we live well?”


W. Barnett Pearce and Kimberly A. Pearce

Excerpt: Until recently, the disciplinary study of communication has apparently had little impact on the development of thought and practice of dialogue. To the best of our knowledge, none of the seminal figures in dialogue formally studied communication and none based their thinking about dialogue on theories of communication. For example, although the first chapter of David Bohm’s (1996) On Dialogue is titled “Communication,” the short (four page) treatment shows no connection to the scholarly work done by the academic discipline of communication. Martin Buber’s (1958) work was grounded in his philosophical investigations of the qualities of different forms of interpersonal relationships. Mikhael Bakhtin’s concept of dialogue emerged from a preoccupation with language and literature from the perspective that “No word can be taken back, but the final word has not yet been spoken and never will be spoken” (Morson & Emerson, 1990, p. 52). In a similar manner, most practitioner organizations that focus on dialogue ground their work on sources other than communication theory and research. For example, the Public Conversations Project applies concepts from family therapy to the public discourse (Chasin, et al., 1996); the National Issues Forums grounds their work on classical models of deliberation (Mathews, 1994, pp. 111-116); and Study Circles (2002) develop their practices on concepts of participatory democracy. …

In addition to asking what [the growing body of work on] dialogue has to offer [the field of] communication [studies], we wonder what communication theory and research might offer for understanding and practicing dialogue.

At Home in the Universe with Miracles and Horizons: Reflections on Personal and Social Evolution

This is version 3.1 of the earlier paper posted in this space. It was originally written as a gift for participants in the Festschrift that dear friends organized in my honor, and has mutated into a statement of sorts of my perception of where I have been (e.g., my life’s work), where we are (e.g., all of us, in the universe), and the meaning of life (as a teaser: “wholly but not fully human”). Among other things, I have a coherent statement of what I mean by “making better social worlds.” If such a rambling document has a thesis statement, it is: To be at home in the universe is to know the universe as well as we can, to know our place in the universe as well as we can, and to be, as fully as we can, what we are – the seventh miracle; the makers of better social worlds through the coordinated enactment of compassion, empathy and mindfulness. Enjoy!

Dialogue and Deliberation, Virtuosity as a Practitioner, and Taking a Communication Perspective

Written for the Dialogue, Deliberation and Public Engagement graduate certificate program, Fielding Graduate University, July, 2007

in this paper, I want to focus on the question of how we can make a world in which people participate in making the decisions that affect them. And this starts at what might seem an unusual place: communication….

I am more convinced than ever that attention to forms of communication is an important and relatively neglected leverage point for dealing with such issues. To put it bluntly, I believe that if we can get the form of communication “right,” then the best things possible will happen. Further, I believe that focusing on the forms of communication – in addition to or instead of focusing on the “issues” themselves – is the best way of breaking through the self-sustaining patterns that hold in place the problems we want to address.

  Going Public: Working Systemically in Public

This paper has been published in Spanish, Portugese and Italian, but not in English.

We have learned many things from systemic practitioners. We’ve tried to extend this work by moving from private face-to-face conversations to work in public with the public. We found that some aspects of systemic practice is robust enough to survive the shift in contexts and that we had to make some adjustments.

Toward Communicative Virtuosity

Presented to “Modernity as a communication process (Is modernity ‘on time’?)”, a seminar sponsored by the Department of Communications and Social and Political Theories, Russian State University for Humanities, Moscow, April 15, 2005.

I believe that we (collectively) make the social worlds in which we live by the way we communicate with each other (this is what I call “the communication perspective”). To think of communication this way requires concepts that include temporal extension and pattern recognition. In this paper, I offer a some concepts for thinking holistically about communication (using a gradient of increasingly large concepts) and revisit my earlier descriptions of “forms” of communication. Using a case study of incivility in contemporary American political discourse, I argue that changing communicative acts is unlikely to produce desired improvement. Instead, we need to develop the ability to discern and differentiate among forms of communication, and learn how to call preferred forms of communication into being.

Civic Maturity: Musings about a Metaphor

Presented at the Action Research Symposium, Fielding Graduate University, July, 2001.

I’ve been involved in projects that improve the quality of public communication about public issues in cities; my concern was how to make these improvements permanent and/or sustainable. As the title suggests, this paper was a record of and vehicle for thinking about this issue, not a statement of conclusions reached. For the complete Proceedings of this symposium, go to: .

Reflections on the role of “dialogic communication” in transforming the world.

Presented to “Change and Development at the Turn of the Millennium” On the occasion of DISPUK’s Tenth Anniversary, Rhodes, October 9-13, 2000

Scenario-planning is a powerful technology that guides decision-making in the present by envisioning possible futures. This essay is both a reflection on “epistemology” (the study of how we know) and a critique of a particular instance of scenario-planning. The critique claims that the process of scenario-planning per se depends on a very high level of good communication but that the possibility of that quality of communication is not included as one of the drivers of change when developing the scenarios themselves. I argue that whether “dialogic communication” becomes a normal part of society is a major determinant of the kind of future we will have, and thus decisions in the present should focus on improving the quality of communication.

Systems: Schools of Thought and Traditions of Practice

I have learned a great deal from systems theorists and systemic practitioners. This essay is my attempt to make some useful distinctions among the various schools and traditions. This file is a 400k .pdf file. You will need Acrobat Reader to view it.

Thinking about Systems and Thinking Systemically

This unpublished paper is a meditation on the distinction made in the title. It argues that both are useful but that they are not the same thing and have very different values and potential usages.

Leah Wells Teaching Peace

A Guide for the Classroom and Everyday Life

by Leah C. Wells

Published by Nuclear Age Peace Foundation , 2003.

(PDF format, 84 pages)

  from the introduction:   This is a book for people who are interested in learning more about not only what peace education is, but where it is, when it is and how it is. It is about hearing perspectives on how it is taught, reading evidence that peace education is working, learning about the struggles and case studies and present-day evidence that nonviolence works and is not mere passivity as it is often mislabeled. This book is an opportunity to learn more about liberation education and to participate in the vision of how American education is an integral part of a global revolution to create balance and harmony between people, nature, technology, religion, economics and many other disciplines.

Leah Wells is a teacher and writer with a Bachelor of Science in Linguistics from Georgetown University. She has taught high school classes in Washington, DC, and California, lectured in cities all over the United States, and written extensively on the topic of teaching peace. Leah co-coordinates the National Campaign on Peace Education, a project endorsed by several notable organizations such as the Hague Appeal for Peace and the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, to network teachers and learners working on peace education across the US.

Thanks to Leah Wells and the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation  for making this document available.


Books and Essays by Gene Knudsen Hoffman (1919 – 2010)

Quaker (Religious Society of Friends) Writer and Peace Activist

“An enemy is one whose story we have not heard.”  (GKH)

view Gene Knudsen Hoffman items as separate page

Compassionate Listening: An Exploratory Sourcebook

(a free, 33-page PDF document)

Perspecitives and Resources About Conflict Transformation

By Gene Knudsen Hoffman, Leah Green and Cynthia Monroe.

Introduction by Dennis Rivers

Gene Knudsen Hoffman

~~~  E S S A Y S   ~~~

Introduction to these essays

Compassionate Listening — First Step to Reconciliation?

Speaking Truth to Power 

No Conflict, No Reconciliation 

An Enemy Is One Whose Story We Have Not Heard

Listening for Truth 

On Preventing Future Holocausts

Review of Forgiveness: Breaking the Chain of Hate,

by Michael Henderson.

Spirit and Trauma: A Universalist World View

as an Instrument of Healing.  

Published by the Quaker Universalist Fellowship in 1994.  

“Compassionate Listening”

and other writings by Gene Knudsen Hoffman,

Quaker Peace Activist and Mystic

Edited and introduced by Anthony Manousos

“For more than half a century, Gene Hoffman—through her essays and poetry, her workshops and speeches, her travels and her witness—has been a fountainhead of creative spirituality and courageous peacemaking. This will be a rich resource for those who come after her.—Richard Deats, Editor of Fellowship magazine, Author of Martin Luther King, Junior, Spirit-led Prophet (Faithworks, 1999).

Click here for link to Amazon Books

David Richo

Essays and exercises focused on personal relationships, from the books of Jungian psychotherapist David Richo

Human Becoming << NEW: free e-book in PDF format (may take 2 to 4 minutes to download the file) An anthology of excerpts from Dr. Richo’s many books on our journey toward becoming whole and human. Touches on love, fear, ego, drama, loneliness, courage, and kindness,among the many topics covered.(88 pages)

Note:  In order to preserve the page formatting of this book, it is only available as an Adobe PDF file.  If you have not yet installed the free Adobe Acrobat Reader on your computer, expand your

online experience by downloading (and installing)

it today from


This exercise is about gently expanding the horizons

of our own personal development, by coming back

again and again to an extensive list of virtues, which

actually represents the kind of person that life is

yearning to become in and through us.  [This exercise

is part of Dr. Richo's online book, Human Becoming,

described above.]

Freedom From Fear

An extended series of deeply personal affirmations

intended to help a person move from fearing the next

catastrophe to trusting life and their own inner resources.

Notes on Love as a Practice

Love is a sustained and active presence with unconditional

attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection, and allowing

others to be as they are. [I call these "the five A's."]

A Brief View of Confessing and Amending

To heal the distances that can grow out of unacknowledged

hurts partners can practice an occasional confession to one

another using these steps

How to See

  Why do some things upset us so much? We sometimes

notice that our reaction cannot quite be accounted for by

the stimulus we have encountered. An introduction to

looking within.

For more information about David Richo’s tapes, classes and workshops, please visit

To order books by Dr. Richo, through links

to online bookstores throughout the world, please visit:

Dennis Rivers

Essays and articles. For Seven Challenges books and teaching materials, click here . Dennis welcomes dialogue on all these topics.  You can e-mail him through our contact form .  (For a complete listing of Dennis’s books and essays, all available free of charge in pdf or html format,  please visit )

Beyond the Hall of Mirrors:    Reflections on War, Terror and Human Interaction  (2005)

Essay: The Love of Children May Hold the Salvation of the World   —  Reflections on Israel, Palestine and America 

This essay explores one possible value or principle that could make a stronger claim on people than revenge and nationalism.  I am especially concerned about this because personal and national revenge seem to make so much sense, yet lead their followers into a spiral of escalating injury from which there appears to be no exit.  I propose that focusing on the love of children could provide a face-saving way for all sides to back away from the brink of mutual destruction.  It would not be easy or automatic, but it would be worlds better than what is going on now.

Translations in PDF format: PORTUGUESE   ROMANIAN

MORE…  complete listing of

Dennis Rivers’s web sites plus books and essays online

Links to “Systems Approach” Resources

Gathered by the Common Knowledge Group


Dialogue and Public Participation

Community Capacity

Nature as Teacher about Living Systems – a quick sampling of various ways into systems thinking that works with (instead of resists) our fundamental interconnectedness

Invitation to help/contribute…

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