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
- “Seven Challenges” Teaching and Training Materials (focused on effective communication skills)
- Mirror Neurons, Inverwovenness, and Empathy
- Radical Questions For Critical Times, by Sam Keen
- Prof. Barnett Pearce: essays in communication studies
- Teaching Peace: A Guide for the Classroom and Everyday Life by Leah C. Wells
- Essays by Gene Knudsen Hoffman, Quaker peace activist
- Essays and book by David Richo, PhD, on relationships and the process of becoming human
- Essays and articles by Dennis Rivers
- “System Approach” Resources Gathered by the Common Knowledge Group
- Resources on Civility
- Guest Essays, Articles and Web Sites:
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, past and present: 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)
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)
MS Word XP version (printable back to Word 97)
A one-page list of suggestions about how to manage
and resolve conflicts. (Dennis Rivers & Paloma Pavel)
Reflections on interpersonal communication and the journey of becoming a person. (Dennis Rivers)
A 20-min talk by Dennis Rivers on the evolving edge of communication skills learning and teaching.
Honest conversations viewed as counseling and counseling viewed as conversations that allow for honesty (Dennis Rivers)
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 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.”
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 www.pearceassociates.com 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 www.adobe.com.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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: http://www.fielding.edu/research/ar2001.htm .
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.
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.
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.
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)
(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
~~~ E S S A Y S ~~~
by Michael Henderson.
as an Instrument of Healing.
Published by the Quaker Universalist Fellowship in 1994.
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).
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 www.adobe.com
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.]
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.
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."]
To heal the distances that can grow out of unacknowledged hurts partners can practice an occasional confession to one another using these steps
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 www.davericho.com
To order books by Dr. Richo, through links to online bookstores throughout the world, please visit: www.hudevbooks.com/books_by_david_richo
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 www.karunabooks.net )
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.
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
- National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation – offers a wide range of dialogue resources, such as a listing of 150 participatory practices
- International Association for Public Participation
- The Institute for Local Government – Public Engagement and Collaborative Governance Program
- The Appreciative Inquiry Commons
- The Asset-Based Community Development Institute and the Abundant Community blog
- Dr. Thomas Armstrong’s interpretation of Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences (insight into different ways that people can be smart – and what talents are waiting to be tapped)
- Dr. Leslie Shelton’s application of the Theory of Multiple Intelligences for adult learners
Nature as Teacher about Living Systems – a quick sampling of various ways into systems thinking that works with (instead of resists) our fundamental interconnectedness
- Center for Ecoliteracy – Systems Thinking
- Meg Wheatley’s Website
- Joanna Macy’s Observations on Living Systems
- A quick overview of Adaptive Leadership
- An overview of Buckminster Fuller’s Design Science
Resources on Civility
The Meaning of Civility (1997)
by Guy Burgess, Ph.D. and Heidi Burgess, Ph.D.
Co-Directors, Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado
Wikipedia on Civility as Civic Virtue – includes brief history of the concept.
“Civic virtue has historically been taught as a matter of chief concern in nations under republican forms of government, and societies with cities. When final decisions on public matters are made by a monarch, it is the monarch’s virtues which influence those decisions. When a broader class of people become the decision-makers, it is then their virtues which characterize the types of decisions made.”
The Civility Project includes The Civility Pledge (which is open to everyone):
Stochastic Terrorism: Triggering the Shooters by G2geek at DailyKos
Stochastic [randomly inspired] terrorism is understood as having five elements:
- the systematic use of mass communication such as internet,tv and radio,
- expressing anger, vilification and violent imagery
- to stir up mentally/emotionally unstable, random “lone wolves”
- to carry out violent or terrorist acts that are statistically predictable given the level of stimulation and provocation, but individually unpredictable,
- leaving the persons or organizations who incited the violence apparently free of any responsibility for it.
An example of this would be Glenn Beck’s repetition of the phrase “shoot them in the head/shoot me in the head” on his June 9, 2010 television show, which suggests, in a joking and deniable way, that murder is an appropriate expression of frustration or disagreement. Another example is U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann’s request that people be “armed and dangerous” to fight climate-change legislation. In a global context, the deliberate and continuous vilification of the Tutsis in radio broadcasts to the Hutus played an important role in fomenting the Rwandan mass murders of 1994.
The great challenge in developing the idea of stochastic terrorism, and in exposing and denouncing the stochastic terrorists, is that we run the risk of becoming trapped in spirals of endless denunciation. I suggest that we translate the idea of stochastic terrorism into the idea of “indirect moral responsibility,” and affirm that indirect moral responsibility is a fundamental part of human life. In public life, we are all responsible for the bad feelings we incite in others, and the good feelings we inspire in them, too. That would lead us toward the practice of what the Buddhists call ” Right Speech ,” and what the communication coach Marshall Rosenberg, PhD, has described at length in his many books as a language of compassion . [DR]
Keeping your communication cool when the situation gets hot
The www.newconversations.net Conflict Resolution Emergency Kit
Approaches to Conflict Resolution – Ewan W. Anderson – British Medical Journal
An overview for aid workers in conflicts that arise in the aftermath of wars
and natural disasters.
Standards for Civility Among Wikipedia Editors as they apply to the thousands of co-editors of the online encyclopedia.
Conducting Track II Peacemaking — By Heidi Burgess and Guy Burgess
Published by the U.S. Institute for Peace
In the world of diplomacy and peacemaking, “Track I” usually consists of face to face negotiations focused on one or another pressing, specific issues. The chronic failures of Track I negotiations to achieve their intended aim have led would-be peacemakers to search for alternatives. Track II peacemaking is focused on dialogue and trust-building among the conflict participants. It brings parties together across conflict lines to talk, build relationships, engage in joint civic projects, or even develop new ideas about potential political solutions to the conflict. [DR]
Conflict Resolution Information Service
Large online library sponsored by the University of Colorado — 20,000 resources.
The Conflict Resolution Network , New South Wales, Australia
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Overview of Alternative Dispute Resolution
(PDF – 71 pages.)
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for many giant public works projects in the U.S. that involve rivers, and hence has been involved for two hundred years in trying to find workable compromises among contending parties that include local governments and large businesses. In addition to theOverview of Alternative Dispute Resolution , the Corps maintains a library of case studies on conflicts resolved. All of this material in interesting in relation to topic of civility, because it shows evolving processes of respectful disagreement and dialogue in the everyday world of business and government. While these practices have not yet become the predominant way of handling conflict in modern society, they are well established in specific areas and represent a well of resources and examples from which we all may draw inspiration and instruction. [DR]
Public Conversations Project (PCP) of the Family Institute of Cambridge, MA
PCP was created when a televised debate on abortion caused Cambridge, MA, family therapist Laura Chasin to question how family therapy practices could improve polarized conversations about abortion and other public issues.
A family therapist and faculty member at the Family Institute of Cambridge, Chasin, with four other professionals, founded PCP in 1989. Since then, PCP has pioneered a distinctive, effective approach to dialogue that shifts communication to enhance understanding, repair relationships, and rebuild trust. Drawing upon mediation, traditional conflict resolution, and consensus building, the organization developed dialogue practices that have been tested throughout the world in conflicts ranging from religion to the environment. [project info from PCP web site]