As humans, we naturally learn better when the pressure is off and we are interacting with others and we are having fun. By using these easy conflict resolution games, you will be able to develop new habits and learn new skills. These will help you in any conflict situation you may encounter throughout your day.
Don’t worry, you are not required to skip around for any of these, or even laugh, you will only be required to bring a good attitude and willingness to participate.
When faced with conflict head-on, it can become easy to fall back on old reaction habits. These habits may not always lead to the desired outcome.
By taking the time to practice new conflict resolution skills, without expectation of a specific outcome, we can become more comfortable using these new techniques when conflicts do arise.
It is often much easier to read through new skills and reiterate the concepts, understanding their potential impact. By taking the time to practice skills, we become more comfortable using them. When we are then faced with a conflict, we have an increased ability to call upon these new tools when we are in the heat of the moment.
According to Josh Kaufman, author of The Personal MBA, to go from “knowing nothing to being pretty good”, you need approximately 20 hours of practice. Not everyone needs to master these skills, of course, unless it is your job to constantly deal with conflict. But, no matter who you are, if you interact with another life form you will require some effective method of managing yourself within a conflict.
There are a variety of different games and activities listed below, pick a few to try out and see what works for you or your team.
Keep in mind, the majority of people, even those with endless hours of training, still need practice. Ask someone if they would be interested in learning these tools with you. Having a partner will make each activity easier; you will receive feedback and you won’t look silly arguing to yourself.
It can become easy to allow other bad behaviors to impact how we are thinking/feeling about a task or situation. A single member’s poor attitude or behavior can increase the tension, creating conflict both internally and externally within the group. This can also impact and change our own and the group’s behavior.
Though more difficult, the same can happen when someone is positive. By increasing the group’s positivity, solutions become more creative and time tends to go move quicker. It takes far more positive energy to shift a group’s attitudes than negative.
Required number of people: 5+
Duration: 10-20 min/round
Set this activity to occur just after a break to allow yourself time to set up.
Tell the group they will be working as a team to complete a challenge. Ask them to form themselves into groups of 5 (more if you have a large group). Let them know that after the break they can come and start the challenge right away.
Choose one person from each group, assigning that person a role that is designed to slow the group down or throw them off their task. Call upon a few of them to stay and talk with you before the break. These instructions can include:
- Come in late and be resistant to working with your group or following directions
- Keep looking at your phone or becoming distracted from the task
- Be negative and critical of the decisions being made
- Question each decision made
- Try and take over the group, shutting down people’s ideas and opinions
- Act tired and disinterested in the activity, take a break
- Play devil’s advocate
- Be a cheerleader for your team, encourage them and give positive feedback
- Give a personal, individualized compliment to each person through the challenge
- Act very excited and do whatever you can to keep the energy level up
Set out a challenge. Some examples are:
- Puzzle with 100+ pieces
- Build a 3-foot tower out of pasta and marshmallows
- Build a bridge that can hold a book using tape and popsicle sticks
- Draw an accurate map of the building you are in/a familiar space
- Break into groups of 5+ (choose how to best divide your group)
- Tell the group that after the break, they will be completing x challenge together
- Ask for one person from each group to help you set up and let the rest of the group go on break outside the class
- Inform these participants of their role as an infiltrator
- Set out the materials and send the infiltrators on their break
- As groups come back to watch how the activity unfolds, making notes of what you notice
- If doing positive and negative scenarios switch and repeat steps 1-6 in new groups
- How did it feel to complete the challenge?
- What worked/didn’t work well?
- What thoughts and feelings did this challenge bring up?
- What conflicts arose?
- How were conflicts handled?
- How did the workload and attitude of others in the group impact how the team worked?
- How did the workload and attitude of others in the group impact how you worked?
- What would you do next time to manage other attitudes within the group?
- What would you change?
It is easy to create assumptions and judge others for positions they take, especially ones that oppose ours. By taking a step back and becoming curious we can deescalate conflict and gain a new perspective.
This will do multiple things. First, it will allow the person to feel heard and understood. When people feel understood and less judged their defenses come down and they are more willing to listen. Second, it will start a conversation where you can create bridges with your similarities and work to understand each others’ stories behind the differences.
Required Number of People: 2-3/group
Duration: 5 min/person
Preparation: Have people pair into small groups
- Individually select a polarizing topic that you feel strongly about
- Decide who will state their point (A) and who will ask questions (B) each round
- Person (A) will state their opinion regarding their topic
- Person (B) will now ask 20 open questions (what made you, how did you, why, what if, etc)
- How did it feel to complete the challenge?
- What worked/didn’t work well?
- What thoughts and feelings did this challenge bring up?
- How did it feel to be asked open questions?
- How was it to listen without being able to offer your opinion?
- Did you learn something about that person’s stance you didn’t know/understand previously?
Flip your Stance
It is easy to see things from our point of view and get stuck in a battle of who is right and who is wrong. By gaining the ability to shift our perspective we start seeing that people all have their reasons for having a position that may oppose ours.
By practicing arguing the other point of view we can start making assumptions about what may cause someone to have a different perspective, opening our eyes to more possibilities.
This will also help when trying to solve issues, by understanding what is important about a different point of view we may start to see similarities in what had led us to our differing individual beliefs. Eg. Two people may think differing sports are the best because they grew up in families who were devout fans of each sport.
Required Number of People: 1+
Duration: 5 min/person
Preparation: Choose a topic that people will feel passionate about. It does not need to be life-changing or earth-shattering in nature. It is best to start with polarizing, yet non-moral/value-based topics like religion or politics.
- Cats vs Dogs
- Coke vs Pepsi
- Rock and Roll vs Hip Hop
- Christmas vs Easter
- Filtered vs Unfiltered water
- Eat to live vs Live to eat
- Coffee vs Tea
- Actors Vs Directors
- Netflix vs Amazon Prime (or other services)
- Beauty vs Brains
- Vampires vs Werewolves
- Star Trek vs Star Wars
- Hot dog vs Sandwich
- Wake up early vs Stay up late
- Disney World vs Disneyland
- Wendy’s vs McDonald’s fries (or other chains)
- Ketchup vs Ranch
- Chocolate vs Caramel
- French wine vs Italian wine
- Should pineapple be a pizza topping Yes vs No
- Are there aliens yes vs no
- Disney vs Pixar
- Seinfeld vs Friends
- Lick vs Bite ice cream
- Hero vs Sidekick
- Football vs Hockey (or other popular sports)
- Toilet paper over vs under
- Tomato fruit vs vegetable
- Sheep vs Cow
- Fame or Fortune
- Beach vs Mountains
- Blue or Red
- Hot vs Cold
- Swim vs Run
- 2 legs vs 4 legs
- Hello Kitty vs Barbie
- Select a topic that you feel strongly about
- Take the opposite stance/option
- Defend the stance that opposes your opinion for 5 minutes
- Be honest about it, if you were still you, with your experiences and history, why would you have this change in opinion/stance?
*If doing this activity with others, allow them to ask questions about how you came to this opinion
- How did it feel to argue a point that you were opposed to?
- What similarities did you find in your reasoning for each perspective?
- What insights did you gain?
If we don’t know what sets us off, makes us blow up or break down, it is difficult to see when we are reacting disproportional to what is necessary for a situation.
Most people have a least a few words or names that, if called, will send them over the edge, instigating a combative conflict or causing the person to break down or shut down. These words will be completely different for varying groups or individuals, even when said with no malicious intent.
This can also be true for visuals like body language, smells, tastes, physical contact, etc. Past experiences create long-lasting and deep impressions on our psyche that can rear their ugly heads at the worst time.
Required number of people: 1
Duration: 30 min
Grab a pen/pencil and some paper and find a place where you can think without interruption
- Choose a recent event or a person that caused you to blow up or lose it
- Write out your understanding of this situation, write as much detail as you can
- Time of day
- Who was there
- What was going on around you (go through your 5 senses)
- What was happening just before the incident
- Ask yourself – why you feel you reacted the way you did to that situation?
- What belief, need, expectation, fear was not met or challenged that created your reaction/response?
- Were there specific words that you remember?
- Was there body language that set you off?
- Are there times when you have reacted the same?
- If so, what things were the same?
- When you think about people you don’t enjoy interacting with, be specific
- What are their similarities?
- What traits stand out about them?
Remember that what people think and do has more to do with them than it does you
- Are these triggers currently serving to protect you?
- What is the root of these triggers?
- Do you feel that they are ingrained from your past experiences?
- How did these previously serve to protect you?
- Are they currently helping or hurting your interactions?
- What can you do to address these triggers?
- What methods can you put in place when these triggers do come up?
- Are people doing this to trigger you, or is this how they have learned to communicate?
- What triggers are in your control to change? mitigate?
Stop and Breath
It takes approximately 6-10 seconds for your brain to move from the moment of being triggered by an intense emotion to being able to process the situation within your frontal cortex. Our primitive, reactionary brain (the amygdala) receives the messages far quicker than our more thoughtful, intelligent, and rational mind (the frontal cortex).
When we are dealing with high stress or dealing with mental illness our frontal cortex’s operations are already functioning in a compromised capacity, creating more intense and longer periods in our ability to process these triggers and stimulants.
By getting to know what our triggers are, we can begin to take control back from our primitive brain.
1.1 BC Campus: The Experience of Emotion
Required number of people: 1-2
Duration: 5 min
Preparation: Know your triggers (refer to above exercise)
- Expose yourself to a trigger, this should be something that immediately sets your brain into high alert
- Focus on your breathing (box breathing = inhale for 4 -> hold for 4 -> exhale for 4 -> hold for 4)
- Wait 6-10 seconds
- How did it feel to take the time to breathe instead of reacting?
- What changes did you notice in your body?
- What changes did you notice in your brain?
- Were there some triggers that impacted you more than others?
- If so take note, see how long you need to pause to return to a neutral state
- What methods can you put into place in your daily life to pause before reacting?
The Paradigm Shift
It is easy to make a judgment towards another person’s perspective when we don’t understand their perspective and experiences. It is not necessary that we change our position, it is important that we are empathetic and authentically inquisitive.
By opening ourselves up to these shifts in our perception we are able to create more robust solutions and processes. This allows us to more effectively anticipate and navigate situations or potential conflicts that arise.
Required Number of People: 2
Duration: 20 min
- Select a partner
- Sit facing one another
- Choose a position or situation you have recently been a part of that you would like to gain more clarity on or challenge your assumptions
- Making assumptions about the other perspective, have your partner take the stance of the opposing party
- Ask questions to gain more knowledge about the other person’s perspective
- Make note of any shifts in your understanding
- Make note of any shifts in your body language/tone/words
- Debrief, then switch roles
*This can also be done individually by writing down both perspectives. Write down your assumptions underneath each. Work through what the individual’s truths behind these assumptions could be. Are there reasonings that could be outside of your assumptions?
- What assumptions did you make about the other person’s perspective?
- Did you discover any information you didn’t already know?
- Did this challenge your assumptions?
- What was it like to have to be inquisitive instead of confrontational?
- What changes did you notice taking place physically and emotionally through your dialogue?
- How was this for the other person?
- What situations do you see this being helpful?
- What difference could this openness to challenging assumptions bring about?
- How can you apply them in your daily life?
Pushing and Pulling
You can not actively listen to another person if we are constantly trying to bring them to our side. Even if we hear their words, by not listening to them we will put their guard up. At this point, all hope you have in having them come willingly to join your perspective is lost. Often, they will not care to understand why your position is important or valid. You cannot push and pull someone at the same time.
Number of People: 3
- Break into groups of 3
- Select two people that will be having a conversation and one person who will be the observer
- Decide on a topic of conversation
- Each person will choose a different point of view to support
- The objective is to convince the other person that your position is the correct position
- The winner, for the purpose of this activity, is whoever convinces the other person to agree with their point of view
- Observe, make note of body language, tone, shifts in behavior, words, and dialogue that would repel or sway the opposing party to change their perspective
- Change roles, select a new topic and repeat activity
- Debrief within the group what the observe notices and any shifts the participants felt
*If you would like to add a physical element to this, have participants place their palms against one another’s and notice when their hands move towards the opposite party.
- Where there any significant things your group notices?
- How did this feel?
- How did it look (observers)?
- What would you do differently?
- What would you do the same?
- What would have made you switch sides if you didn’t?
- If you did switch sides, why?
- What changed as the discussion continued?
- What would it have felt like to be asked questions without knowing the other person had a different perspective?
- What would have made you soften or change your perspective?
A Change in Perspective
How we perceive conflict will impact how we respond to it. By shifting our perspective, we can become more comfortable with being in and embracing conflict for what it is and the value it brings.
Number of People: 5+
- Write the word conflict on a whiteboard or large piece of paper
- Give each person a writing utensil
- Ask people to write words around it that describe “conflict”
- What it is?
- What it looks like?
- What it feels like?
- How is it expressed?
- Conflict, at its root, is simply a difference in thought process, attitudes, understanding, interests, requirements and even sometimes perceptions.
- Conflict is not good or bad, it is a difference. How we choose to react to or interpret it is where tension and destructive behaviors occur
- How can conflict be destructive?
- How can conflict be constructive?
- What can we do to make conflict less destructive?
- What can we do to make conflict more constructive?
- What are some examples of constructive conflict you have witnessed or been a part of?
- How can you approach a conflict situation with a more positive lens/outlook?
The Stone Wall
Many time’s we find ourselves working with someone who is very good at giving the minimal information required. For their own reasons, be it they are busy, stuck in their position, or not thinking we care, they will respond with the minimum information necessary.
As skilled individuals, it is up to us to recognize when this is happening and make a shift towards becoming inquisitive and interested. This allows for an open dialogue which in turn gives us a fuller picture of that person’s perspective and current reality.
Number of People: 2
- Find a partner
- Select a Partner A and a Partner B
- Partner B’s job is to find out as much information from Partner A as possible. IF a closed question is asked, Partner A is to answer using only 1-word responses.
- Partner A – Choose an opinion-based statement and tell your partner
- Partner B – Ask questions
- After 10 minutes switch roles and repeat activity
- How was it to ask questions and have the other person only give one-word responses?
- Is there anyone that this did not happen to?
- What was easy?
- What struggles did your team have?
- How did it feel for person A/B in each of the roles?
- What are some closed questions you asked?
- How did you change them to open questions?
- Why may someone not want to answer questions?
- How can we help them open-up to provide the information we are looking for?
- How could this shift in how we ask questions impact our daily lives?
Judges and Assumptions
Our judges and assumptions play a vital role in creating both our current reality and our future experiences.
We all have a judge, it’s the voice in our head that tells us we should have done or not done something; We should be or should not be.
“The Judge is the universal Saboteur that afflicts everyone. It is the one that beats you up repeatedly over mistakes or shortcomings, warns you obsessively about future risks, wakes you up in the middle of the night worrying, gets you fixated on what is wrong with others or your life, etc. Your Judge is your greatest internal enemy, activates your other top Saboteurs, causes you much of your stress and unhappiness, and reduces your effectiveness.”
– Shirzad Chamine: Positive Intelligence
When we allow our judgments of others to run through our lives, especially with reckless abandon, we become very negative and increasingly harder to please. Granted, we should have standards for ourselves and others but the skill is in having these expectations in the correct amount, at the correct time towards the correct person.
Our assumptions, when left unchecked, create stories based upon half-truths and one-sided perspectives. The impact can be solely on us, or it can have a ripple effect on those around us. When we assume something about another person, we do not give them the chance to tell their story, to give context or tell their truth.
“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”
Required number of people: 2-4
Duration: 15 min/person
Break into groups of 2-4
- On a piece of paper/computer make a table with two categories: Judgements/Assumptions
- Choose a person to tell a story about a personal experience (positive or negative)
- As that person is speaking write down:
- Judgments you have
- What should they have/have not done?
- What negative words pop into your head when listening to them?
- What could they have done better?
- Why did they make these decisions?
- What was the challenge for them?
- Why was this a challenge for them?
- Judgments you have
- Does your group have similar judgments and assumptions?
- Are your judgments true?
- Are your assumptions true?
- If you were to go back, what questions could you ask to challenge your judgments/assumptions?