УДК 811. 111’42 : 316.772.2 : 159.964.21

Nataliia Peredon


The article is dedicated to the linguistic analysis of the conflict resolution as the final stage of conflict interaction in English discourse. The author has made an attempt to describe speech behaviour of a communicator, who initiates resolving interpersonal conflict. Analysis of the examples taken from the British and American contemporary fiction make it possible to define the main verbal means that contribute to the implementation of intention to harmonize relations between the addresser and addressee. The usage of these means has been analyzed at lexical, syntactic and pragmatic level.  The chief nonverbal and paraverbal means of communication which accompany the verbal embodiment of the aim to resolve a conflict have been identified. It has been found out that at the stage of conflict settlement the usage of the analyzed units is aimed at demonstration of the positive attitude to the partner in communication, showing genuine interest in resolving conflict, as well as the expression of the feeling of regret because of the contradictions that have emerged in relations with the addressee and the desire to restore the harmonious interaction.

Key words: conflict resolution, verbal, nonverbal, paraverbal means of communication, addresser, addressee.


Formulation of research problem and its significance. Сonflicts are inevitable in any society. Being a daily part of human existence, they are quite natural because of people’s different values, beliefs and experiences. The consequences of conflict interaction can be both positive and negative. It depends upon how people handle conflicts. Clear and open communi­cation is the cornerstone of successful achieving mutual agreement. In this paper language and conflict resolution are examined in a way to see their interconnectivity and productivity of certain verbal, nonverbal and paraverbal messages in particular conflict situation.

The analysis of researches on the problem.  The study of conflict and its successful overcoming has become a well-recognized academic discipline in recent years. Searching for ways to prevent and resolve conflicts is now one of the main directions of researches conducted in the field of sociology, psychology and conflict studies, as evidenced by the works of I. P. Fedirko, N. V. Hryshyna, L. M. Yemelianenko, O. Ya. Antsupov, William Ury, Robert Bolton, Dudley Weeks, Raymond Cohen, Herbert Kelman and others. The study of linguistic nature of communicative conflict and its resolution have attracted much attention from scholars of modern science of language. Verbal conflict has been studied by N. O. Karaziia, Ye. H. Polikarpova, V. S. Tretiakova. The works of N. A. Bilous, O. S. Volkova, I. I. Hulakova, O. V. Fadeieva are dedicated to strategies and tactics of conflict discourse. However, despite numerous studies in this area, the issue of verbal and nonverbal behaviour of communicators in the situation of resolving conflict has not received sufficient coverage yet. The present paper aims at revealing the most widely used verbal units which contribute to successful communication and the nonverbal and paraverbal means which accompany them. The above objective presupposes the following tasks:

  1. to describe the peculiarities of conflict resolution as the stage of conflict development;
  2. to analyze verbal means of communication contributing to successful conflict resolution at lexical, syntactic and pragmatic level;
  3. to define the most typical non- and paraverbal means of communication which accompany verbal messages in the conflict resolution process.

Presentation of the basic material and theoretical grounding.  As George Kohlrieser claims, conflict manifests itself as a difference between two or more people or groups characterized by tension, disagreement, emotion or polarization, where bonding is broken or lacking [7].  Conflict resolution is the process of restoring the bonding between disputing parties and bringing contrary outlooks into harmony through amicable agreement. Herbert Kelman represents it as «a strategic change in the relationship between the parties, expressed in terms of a pragmatic partnership, in which each side is persuaded that stable peace and cooperation are both in its own best interest and in the interest of the other» [6, p. 34].

There is no debating that communication is essential for successful resolution of any conflict. According to Rod Windle and Suzanne Warren from the Center for Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Special Education, communication involves three components: 1) verbal messages; 2) nonverbal messages; and 3) paraverbal messages [13].

Verbal messages play an important role in conflict settlement.  Gaps in understanding between communicators cause conflict escalation. For Michael Agar, they «inevitably surface in the language people use to interact with each other» [1, p. 427]. It means that the choice of words (that is verbal messages) can either encourage a conflict or inhibit it. Language is absolutely crucial for cooperation to take place because in most circumstances the disputing parties cannot settle a conflict without a common language. The majority of interpersonal conflicts can be eliminated through the usage of particular verbal means. Analysis of the examples taken from the British and American contemporary fiction allowed to define the main verbal means that encourage participants working together to resolving conflict rather than creating further confrontation. So, at lexical level the participant of communication who initiates successful resolving of conflict uses the following units:

- auxiliary verb do (does), which is a marker of intensification of emotive component of a statement:

«I do beg your pardon, Mrs. Patterson. I seem to have made a mistake.» [5, p. 264];

- stereotype units Look and Listen. Their function is to attract attention to a particular segment of the utterance:

«Hi, Lara. It's Hugh. […] Look, I'm sorry, a thousand times sorry that I didn't call last week. Can't we get together tonight and try to make things right again?"» [8, p. 258];

- intensifying particles so and very, the purpose of which is to emphasize the sincerity of the apology:

«Oh, my God,» I whimpered. […] «Aidan, isn’t it? Look, I’m so, so sorry.» [5, p. 33];

- adverbs awfully, terribly, really, that perform the role of intensifiers of expression: «Listen, Ava, I'm really sorry about this but two of our guys have rung in sick and I don't have anyone for you until four o'clock.»               [9, p. 38].

At syntactic level the speaker whose aim is to resolve a conflict uses the following verbal means:

- direct address which emphasizes respectful attitude to the addressee:

«I’m sorry, Lara. I’ve been so selfish. Of course you must hate Caroline after all that business down in Wales.» [8, p. 226]; 

- etiquette forms of address, pointing to an awareness of various social status of communicators:

I guess we should apologise to this guy, Jane thought. We put him through a lot yesterday. «Look, Sir,» she began, «I’m really sorry about what happened yesterday…» [12, p. 177];

- repetitions which demonstrate the emotional state of the addresser:

Her voice was now apologetic as she said, «I’m sorry. I’m sorry, dear. I know I’ve put a lot onto you lately…» [4, p. 143];

- interjections, expressing, as a rule, a startle response to the harm caused by the misconduct:

«Ooopps, sorry, I forgot,» she said quickly. [3, p. 19];

- aposiopesis, caused by an inability to deal with the flood of feelings:

«Please, John, don’t do that. I… I won't be…» She drooped her head [4, p. 185];

- contact maintaining questions which help control the course of conversation, as well as hold the addressee’s attention and stimulate his/her response:

«I thought you’d be home tonight,» he said tightly. «I made sure that I wasn’t meeting anyone because I thought you’d be home tonight.»

«I’m sorry,» she said. «I really am. It’s – well, there’s a lot of people staying and I didn’t want to be the only one. You understand?»

He exhaled slowly. «I understand.» [10, p. 251].

At pragmatic level the intention to restore harmonious relationships is expressed by the usage of:

- constatives (Sorry, I’m sorry, etc.):

«I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to understand what you’ve been telling me for months.» [9, p. 388];

- directives (Forgive me, pardon me, excuse me, etc.):

«Forgive me and think kindly of me, if you can, my dear Rosy.»                  [4, p. 125];

- requestives (I beg your pardon, Please, accept my apologies, etc.):

He suddenly grimaced. «I do beg your pardon, have I been tactless?» [5, p. 99].

One more component of communication is nonverbal messages, which play a direct role in resolving conflict, because interpersonal communication not only involves the explicit meaning of words, the information or message conveyed, but also refers to implicit messages, whether intentional or not, which are expressed through nonverbal beha­viour of communicators. Nonverbal communication includes facial expressions, gestures displayed through body language (kinesics), physical distance between the communicators (proxemics) and the forms of nonverbal communication involving touch (haptics).

Facial expression is generally understood as playing a crucial role in communication, conveying both information and emotions.

«Oh, Caroline, I’m so sorry. What a thing to say,» she apologized, mortified.[…]

Caroline grinned. «You should see your face. It’s scarlet.»

«I’m mortified,» Devlin admitted, touching her flaming cheeks.

«Don’t be silly, Dev. I feel so sorry for people trying to find the right thing to say to me.» [10,  p. 373-374].

The demonstration of emotions through facial expression in this case is unconscious, happening against the will of the speaker. This indicates the inability to cope with the flood of feelings, shows the feeling of shame communicator experiences in the situation.

Looking behaviour (look, gaze, stare) in the situation of resolving conflict fulfills a contact establishing function, a communicative function (that is information sending) and a monitoring function (that is information receiving and regulating the course of conversation). The data clearly revealed that a gaze showing the desire of visual contact with the speaker is the most used nonverbal component in the analysed situation, for the absence of a direct gaze at the situation of conflict indicates non-cooperative intentions of a communicator.

Seconds later, the reading light above Hugh’s bed flicked on and he stared across at me. «I’m sorry, Lara. I’ve been so selfish.» [8, p. 226].

Gestures are a form of nonverbal communication in which visible bodily actions communicate particular messages, either in place of, or in conjunction with speech.

«Oh, John, I’m… I’m sorry I’ve spoken about it; I just wanted you to…»

The colour was now ebbing from his cheeks and he thrust out his hand towards her, and when hers lay in it he said, «Don’t worry, Helen, I understand.» [4, p. 289].

In this example the gesture (he thrust out his hand towards her) performs the function of regulating communication and indicates that the cause of the conflict is now considered to be unimportant. The speaker is willing to accept apology.

There is no denying the fact that the change of the distance between speakers affects communication. The shortening of the distance is a typical way of behaviour of the communicator who initiates resolving conflict. It guarantees the visual contact, makes possible the tactile contact and, therefore, increases the influence of the addresser on the addressee.

At once, he leaned forward and grasped my hand. «Heavens, I’m so sorry. Of course you haven’t wasted my time» [5, p. 99].

Haptics deals with the study of touching as nonverbal communication, i. e. handshakes, hugs, kissing (cheek, lips, hand), back slap, shoulder pat, «high-five», etc. Each of these gives off nonverbal messages revealing person’s intentions and/or feelings.

Hugs, kisses and shoulder pats belong to the most effective means of communication in the situation of resolving conflict.

Paul stared at his daughter. «Ali, I’ve been proud of you your whole life. […] I never meant to put you under pressure. I can’t believe you felt that way. I’m sorry.»

Ali cried into her handkerchief. Paul went over and gave her a hug. For the first time in months, she showed him affection and hugged him back [9, p. 281].

In this case hugs, being a nonverbal message, show that all the disputes between the communicators have been resolved and they are sincere in their desire to restore harmonious relations.

Moments later, the back door slammed and Nancy breezed in. […]

«What’s time this to come home for your tea?» Alec demanded angrily. […]

She (Nancy) went over to kiss his cheek. «Sorry, Pa. […] We had to wait for a bus. You know how few they run on Sundays.»

Alec pattered her arm. Nobody stayed angry with Nancy for long              [2, p. 13–14].

In this example, the kiss enhances verbal expression of the girl’s intention to come to terms with her father. A pat on the shoulder, in turn, means that the conflict is settled, since the apology has been taken. It should be emphasized that the use of this group of nonverbal means of communication is limited to the sphere of kindred, friendship or romantic relationships.

Paraverbal communication refers to the messages that speakers transmit through the tone, pitch, and pacing of their voices. Voice characteristics undoubtedly affect communication. They reveal the feelings and emotions of a speaker:

«Oh, well, I’m sorry.» Her words were now apologetic. «I merely thought… well, you understand.» [4, p. 136].

They also show speaker’s attitude to the conflict and the problem which has caused it:

«I’m sorry you had to find out the hard way,» he told me earnestly. «And I suppose I should have told you earlier. […]» [8, p. 273];

A verbal message, uttered in a changed tone can help transmit interaction from the conflict escalation stage to its resolution:

«You won’t!» She had half risen from her chair. «You won’t go and visit them.»

«Why not?» […]

She banged down her knife and fork on the table and her lips hardly moved as the words came through. «You know how I feel about Helen, so don’t you dare suggest that I… that we visit them.»

He was on his feet now. His anger showing, as he cried at her, «Don’t you dare tell me what I can or cannot do. […]»

Before he could finish she was round the table, crying at him, «Oh, no! You won’t! You won’t show me up in front of the staff.» But then her commanding voice changed to a plea as she said, «Please, John, don’t do that. […]»

He put out his hand and touched her shoulder, saying, «All right, all right. Just don’t get upset. […]» [4, p. 184-185].

As we can see from the example, the change of the tone of the addresser (her commanding voice changed to a plea) contributed to a successful conflict resolution. 

Conclusions and perspectives of further research. Conflict is a part of any relationship. Effective interpersonal communication skills play an essential role in successful conflict resolution. These skills include using the above described verbal, nonverbal and paraverbal messages which help demonstrate respectful attitude to the speaker, show genuine interest in resolving conflict, reveal speaker’s feelings of regret and desire to settle the conflict and restore harmonious interaction.

The perspectives of further research are seen by us in studying gender and age peculiarities of successful communication in conflict resolution process. 

Sources and literature

1. Agar M. Linguistic Peace Work / Michael Agar // Peace and Change. – 1996. – No. 4. – P. 424–437.

2. Baker A. Merseyside Girls / A. Baker. – Abingdon : Headline, 1995. – 506 p.

3. Collins J. Hollywood Kids / J. Collins. – London : Macmillan, 1994. – 586 p.

4. Cookson C. The Obsession / C. Cookson. – London : Corgi Books, 1996. – 381 p.

5. Fenton K. Picking up / K. Fenton. – London : Flame, 2002. – 344 p.

6. Kelman H. Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation: A Social-Psychological Perspective on Ending Violent Conflict Between Identity Groups / Herbert Kelman // Landscapes of Violence. – 2010. – No. 1. – P. 31–42.

7. Kohlrieser G. Six Essential Skills for Managing Conflict [Електронний ресурс] / George Kohlrieser // Perspectives for Managers. – 2007. – No. 149. – Режим  доступу : http://www.imd.org/research/publications/upload/PFM149_LR_Kohlrieser.pdf?MRK_CMPG_SOURCE=webletter-july-07

8. Manby C. Second Prize / C. Manby. – London : Coronet Books, 2001. – 378 p.

9. Moriarty S. Pieces of My Heart / S. Moriarty. – London : Penguin Books, 2011. – 440 p.

10. O’Flanagan S. Far From Over / S. O’Flanagan. – London : Headline, 2000. – 410 p.

11. Scanlan P. City Lives / P. Scanlan. – London : Bantam Books, 1999.

12. Willard E. New York Minute / E. Willard. – Los Angeles : Dualstar Entertainment Group, 2004. – 182 p.

13. Windle R., Warren S. Communication Skills [Електронний ресурс] / Rod Windle, Suzanne Warren // Режим доступу : http://www.directionservice.org/ cadre/ section4.cfm

Передон Наталія. Ефективна комунікація у процесі розв’язання кон­флікту. Стаття присвячена лінгвістичному аналізу розв’язання  конфлікту як завершальної стадії конфліктної взаємодії в англомовному дискурсі. Зроблено спробу описати мовленнєву поведінку комуніканта, який ініціює вирішення міжособистісного конфлікту. На основі аналізу мовного матеріалу виділені домінантні вербальні засоби, що сприяють реалізації інтенції гармонізувати стосунки між адресантом та адресатом, проаналізовано їхнє вживання на лексич­ному, синтаксичному та прагматичному рівнях. Виділено основні невербальні та паравербальні засоби комунікації, що супроводжують вербальне втілення наміру оптимізації конфлікту. Встановлено, що  на стадії розв’язання конфлікту застосування адресантом аналізованих засобів спілкування спрямоване на де­монстрацію позитивного ставлення до партнера по комунікації, вияв  власної зацікавленості у вирішенні конфлікту, а також вираження почуття жалю через суперечності, що виникли у стосунках з адресатом, і бажання відновити гармо­нійну міжособистісну інтеракцію.

Ключові слова: розв’язання конфлікту, вербальні, невербальні, пара­вербальні засоби комунікації, адресант, адресат.

Передон Наталия. Эффективная коммуникация в процессе разре­шения конфликта. Статья посвящена лингвистическому анализу разрешения конфликта как заключительной стадии конфликтного взаимодействия в англо­язычном дискурсе. Сделана попытка описать речевое поведение коммуниканта, инициирующего нормализацию межличностного конфликта.  На основе ана­лиза языкового материала выделены доминантные вербальные средства, кото­рые способствуют реализации интенции гармонизировать отношения между адресантом и адресатом, проанализировано их употребление на лексическом, синтаксическом и прагматическом уровнях. Выделены основные невербальные и паравербальные средства коммуникации, сопровождающие вербальное воплощение намерения оптимизации конфликта. Установлено, что на стадии разрешения конфликта использование адресантом анализированных средств общения направлено на демонстрацию позитивного отношения к партнеру по коммуникации, проявление собственной заинтересованности в разрешении конфликта, а также выражении чувства сожаления из-за разногласий, возник­ших в отношениях с адресатом, и желание восстановить гармоничную межлич­ностную интеракцию.

Ключевые слова: разрешение конфликта, вербальные, невербальные, паравербальные средства коммуникации, адресант, адресат.


© Peredon N., 2014