The Mediation Times


Conflict Resolution Skills: Development Starts in Childhood.

by Amanda on May 4, 2010

I found this terrific interview by Katie Couric of CBS News with Ellen Galinsky on a new book about life skills for children called Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs. Happily, the ability to resolve conflict is included (you will find the reference at about 32 minutes). It also echoes my own research into the skills of a mediator which place competence in the skills Galinsky talks about at the top of the list.

The book has been called “the best thing since Emotional Intelligence”. In the book, Galinsky identifies 7 life skills:

  1. Focus and Self Control – pay attention and the ability to inhibit the desire to go on automatic.
  2. Perspective Taking – knowing what others think, feel. Empathy is part of that but Ellen goes further to include the Theory of Mind (understanding what is going on in other people’s minds).
  3. Communicating – the ability to put aside your own thoughts in order to understand the other, knowing how your words will be heard and know how to frame your own words so that you will be understood.
  4. Making Connections – the ability to see the connections and the ability to make unusual connections which is the basis of creativity
  5. Critical Thinking – looking for valid and accurate information – how to challenge and discern what is right and useful.
  6. Taking on Challenges – resilience, risk taking, having a growth mindset, not giving up when that would be the easy thing to so.
  7. Self Directed, Engaged Learning – curiosity, “I don’t know everything” mindset, I am not the expert, humility.

The things that stand out for me in making my own connections from this interview to my work as a mediator is that I notice the lack of these skills in my work and it is increasingly common with younger people. This suggests a change in the education system which may have something to do with the narrow focus of education to achieve higher levels of literacy and numeracy and the emphasis on measuring those to meet political agendas. The laudable intention seems to have had unintended consequences.

Despite all the books and courses on communicating skills, mindfulness, collaboration, my experience is that they are expressed less often in practice. Most of all, I notice how difficult it is for people to be empathetic as they struggle with their conviction about their rights or for them to be curious or to make unusual connections unless they are coached and encouraged to do so. I also agree with Galinsky when she says in the interview that it is never too late to learn these skills. They are essential skills not just for life but for dealing with the challenges that face us from the workplace to our relationships with other countries.

So to my mind whether we are mediator, lawyer, manager or employee we all need to

  1. Show up and pay attention.
  2. Put aside your own thoughts in order to understand the other and make a habit of seeing other perspectives.
  3. Be humble and curious because whenever we start to think that we know best, or there is nothing to learn, we fail to inhibit the desire to ‘go on automatic’.
  4. Practice giving praise and encouragement but not about the people themselves but rather on the approaches and strategies they use.

I think giving praise and encouragement to “grown ups’ is one of the most difficult things to do well without sounding patronising or inferring labels. Appreciation of effort and outcomes is a huge part of keeping people engaged and it requires real skill to do that.

Here’s the video.

Watch CBS News Videos Online
Ellen Galinsky, president and co-founder of the Families in Work Institute speaks to Katie Couric about her new book, “Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs.”


  1. idealawg says:

    Mediator blogs about conflict resolution as a needed skill for children — And about an excellent book I am reading…

    Because I thought the book would have application to adults too, I am reading Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs. My guess was right; the book is for anyone who wants to improve his or her ability to navigate through …

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