Communication and Conflict Management through Art

Communication and conflict management are two key competences needed in a broad variety of professional and personal settings. However, such concepts, especially conflict, are often seen as negative and overlooked in daily life. By learning concepts and practicing, we aim to equip cultural entrepreneurs and trainers with tools for facilitating more effective, non-violent communication through acting and role-playing.

Understanding and dealing with conflicts is a process that requires a broad set of theoretical knowledge and personal competences that can be harnessed by professionals, such as artists, entrepreneurs, trainers and facilitators.

Overview of the key aspects of Communication and Conflict Management:

  • Definition of conflict: conflict is a form of competitive behaviour between two or more parties over perceived or real incompatible interests and limited resources.
  • Process of a conflict:
    1. Differences: a conflict arises out of differences between the parties.
    2. Disagreement: at some point, those differences will lead to disagreement.
    3. Relationship issues: the disagreement leads to relationship issue.
    4. Dispute: the next step involves ensuring that both parties understand the existence of the conflict. In addition to relationship issues, two scenarios can unfold: either silence prevails, leading to a silent struggle where parties avoid addressing the issue, or an outright dispute arises.
    5. Confrontation: with dispute comes confrontation, and this delineates the existence of a conflict.
    6. Intractable conflict: an early intervention during relationship issues or when disputes arise can prevent conflicts from becoming intractable.
  • Vulnerability, curiosity, and active listening: these are essential attitudes for effectively navigating conflicts. Contrary to weakness, vulnerability involves exposing ourselves to potential risks. When faced with challenges and risks, curiosity enables us to explore alternative perspectives and avoid becoming entrenched. Cultivating curiosity and an open-minded approach requires embracing active listening.
  • Characteristics of a non-violent communication:
    1. Open-ended questions: to show that you’re active listening.
    2. Clarifying statements: it is how you frame the situation, how you state your position and demands.
    3. Reframing statements: framing happens at the beginning of a conversation, reframing happens when things get off track and you need to bring a conversation back on topic. Reframing helps us focus on the larger picture or our end goals, and helps defuse tense situations.
  • Self-assessment of different responses to conflict.

These knowledge and skills can be trained and stimulated though non-conventional methods such as acting and role playing techniques.

The Convergence of Art and Law: A Journey of Innovation
Gabriela Soares Andrade Dos Santos, intern at Smart Revolution.

Before the CIP project, I had never contemplated merging my two distinct educational backgrounds. However, once the project was successfully piloted, my perspective shifted dramatically. As theatre-enthusiast with an experience of years of acting classes and lawyer armed with a master’s degree in human rights and conflict management, these seemingly disparate worlds suddenly found common ground within the CIP project.

Traditionally, art and law orbit in separate spheres, rarely intersecting. Yet, during my experience within the CIP project, I delved into innovative teaching methodologies, particularly Design Thinking. This exploration played a pivotal role in shaping my ground-breaking pilot idea.

My journey began with extensive research. I scoured for analogous examples (which were scarce) and sought inspiration. The revelation came when I realized that a specific module from my master’s program—focused on conflict management—contained exercises designed for couples or groups. These exercises could be enriched by integrating acting skills. Simultaneously, I revisited my own repertoire of acting exercises, adapting them to the project’s context and scope.

How do I respond to conflict?


read carefully the following conflict styles handout and reflect on which is the most similar to your attitudes:

  • Accommodating: unassertive and very cooperative. People who accommodate tend to put relationships first, ignore the issues and try to keep peace at any price.
  • Competing or Forcing: those people assert themselves and do not cooperate as they pursue their own concerns at other people’s expense. Power-oriented, may include arguing because they believe their position is correct, or they are simply trying to win, since they usually divide things in right or wrong. 
  • Avoiding: those people are generally unassertive and uncooperative. Initially, they rather avoid the conflict entirely, or at least delay their response. Differences are overlooked and they accept disagreement. 
  • Collaborating or Cooperating: unlike avoiders, collaborators are both assertive and cooperative. Assert their own views but also welcome differences. Try to find solutions that fully satisfy both parties.
  • Compromising: moderately assertive and moderately cooperative. They explore the issues more than avoiders, but less than collaborators. Their solutions often involve “splitting the difference” or exchanging concessions.


find a partner with whom you can immerse yourself in the following case-scenarios, and try to solve the conflict as effectively as you can. 

Scenario 1: Workplace Disagreement
Context: Two colleagues, Alex and Chris, have differing opinions on how to approach a project. Alex believes in a more conservative and risk-averse approach, while Chris is in favor of a bold and innovative strategy.

Scenario 2: Family Misunderstanding
Context: Two siblings, Sarah and Michael, have a misunderstanding over the allocation of household chores. Sarah feels burdened and believes Michael is not contributing equally, while Michael thinks he is doing his fair share.

Scenario 3: Customer Service Conflict
Context: A customer, Lisa, is upset about a faulty product she purchased from a company. She is frustrated with the customer service representative, Mark, who is trying to follow company policies while resolving her complaint.


Take the Quiz!