In-Depth Communication

Heidi Burgess

January 2004

One of the approaches to making conflicts less destructive is to get the parties to understand why the other feels and acts the way they do. This cannot be done by exchanging attacks in the newspaper, or in other public settings where the parties simply attack each other in attempt to prove themselves right. Rather, it must be done in a controlled setting, often with a third party mediator or facilitator, who will help parties communicate in more effective ways.

This section of the Knowledge Base discusses several approaches: dialogue, narratives and story-telling, empathic listening (sometimes called active listening), and creating safe spaces for communication. All of these approaches are meant to break the cycle of attack-counter attack that is so common in escalated conflicts, and help the parties come to a better understanding of who the other really is and why they feel the way they do.

So as not to duplicate too much information, refer to the specific essays linked above for more information.

Use the following to cite this article:
Burgess, Heidi. "In-Depth Communication." Beyond Intractability. Eds. Guy Burgess and Heidi Burgess. Conflict Information Consortium, University of Colorado, Boulder. Posted: January 2004 <>.