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Written By

Hannah Gray


College of Business, Law and Governance

Publish Date

2 June 2021

Related Study Areas

Mediation to support communication

Conflict is a part of life and managing disagreements is a vital skill for navigating success. How do we have our say while maintaining positive environments and relationships? JCU Lecturer, Claire Holland, says the key is in how we communicate.

Claire is a senior lecturer at JCU in Conflict Management and Resolution as well as a practising Nationally Accredited Mediator under the Australian Standards (NMAS) and a certified conflict coach with Conflict Coaching International.

As an expert in conflict management and resolution, Claire is familiar with the complications that can hinder communication, from cultural differences to opposing perspectives. Claire has had experience as a mediator attempting to act as a bridge for communication in a variety of settings, such as in legal cases.

“Our court system is an adversarial one — two people presenting their case and an independent person making a determination based on facts and evidence,” Claire says. “But that doesn’t suit a lot of types of conflicts that may be based on miscommunication or relationship based or where the parties might need to have a relationship together in the future. So, in Australia it’s actually required that conflicting parties attempt mediation first.”

“Throughout this process, the mediator is there as a guide,” Claire says. “They don’t make judgements or influence either party. They only assist the communication between the parties to see if they can come up with a negotiated agreement and resolution that they can both live with.”

In situations where two parties not only disagree with each other but are also struggling to communicate with each other, the assistance of a mediator is invaluable, even outside of a legal setting.

Becoming conflict confident

Much like how conflict is inherently varied, conflict resolution is equally varied. Mastering conflict resolution involves developing a wide range of skills.

“Mediation is only one fraction of what the area involves,” Claire says. “In Conflict Management and Resolution at JCU, you can learn the skills for mediation, but you also learn the skills to be an effective negotiator and conflict coach. Those skills have different nuances and processes that you can apply to your work as well as your personal life.”

Claire describes these skills as a conflict management toolbox. When you have many tools within that box, you can draw on them for any role that you find yourself in — because if you’re around people, there’s a high chance you’ll face some conflict at some point.

“If you’re in a management role, for example, often you’re working with people to try to get the best output and outcome from them within a team setting,” Claire says. “So, you need to have the skills to be able to support people to work well together. A lot of that comes down to navigating relationships between people and the way in which relationships can be navigated is through good communication.”

We’re all different — we all have different needs, different goals, different ideals. Our differences will inevitably conflict with others’ differences, especially in settings like workplaces, families, and teams. If one key to managing conflict is listening to find the true message, another key is to develop a conflict culture.

“Conflict is inevitable,” Claire says. “It’s going to occur. So, part of learning how to manage conflict is asking yourself what skills you have in place to support yourself and others when conflict arises. What culture are you helping to develop in your spheres to help manage conflict? How does that culture view or define resolution?”

Asking these questions of ourselves, learning about how we can communicate effectively, and gaining the skills to manage conflict guide us to create a conflict culture that doesn’t see conflict as an obstacle, but rather as a building block to create stronger foundations in our relationships, in our households, and in our workplaces.

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Featured researcher

Claire Holland

Director, Conflict Management and Resolution Program

Claire Holland is a conflict management and resolution expert, with extensive experience in practice, education, and training. Claire has worked nationally and internationally as a mediation specialist, is a practising Nationally Accredited Mediator under the Australian Standards (NMAS) and a certified conflict coach with Conflict Coaching International. Claire is currently a PhD candidate in the field of positive psychology and law.

Claire has designed and delivered a number of subjects at JCU, leadership development programs, and facilitated training across multiple workplaces. She is passionate about positive leadership and is involved in research and collaboration projects to further explore the skills required for effective leadership and methods for enabling transformative and cultural change in organisations.