Featured Video Play Icon

For students, and everyone, conflict resolution is a critical skill.

After leading a student workshop in a new form of conflict resolution, a university chaplain says what young people need is exactly what the rest of the population needs.

Beware of trapping yourself in an information bubble. Talk with people who disagree with you. Focus on commonalities, not differences.

“It seems now we just spend so much time surrounding ourselves with people that we agree with,” said Joey Haynes, chaplain at Queens University of Charlotte, “so we’re not meeting people who think and believe differently.”

Haynes, who also serves as director of the Pamela Davies Center for Faith and Outreach, led a student workshop in conflict resolution as part of a Charlotte community experience on March 15, 2019, after a lecture on the issue by journalist Amanda Ripley.

The workshop experience made Haynes realize how conflict resolution skills, such as “looping,” are important for young people — and everyone — now more than ever.

Looping is an active listening tactic in which the listener repeats back carefully what they think the speaker said. When the speaker agrees emphatically that the listener understood correctly, the conversation can proceed. Looping and another journalistic technique called ‘complicating the narrative’ are key components of what Ripley describes.

“We are all human and we are all living together, especially in more populated areas, and we run into people [with different views] a lot,” Haynes said in a recent interview. “If you live your life in a bubble, ultimately I don’t think that’s going to be the healthiest for you or healthiest lifestyle for people surrounding you. So I think learning to live with difference and understanding difference is part of living in community.”

Ripley, a senior fellow for the Emerson Collective, has recently been working to shed light on how conflict can be beneficial instead of toxic. On the Queens University of Charlotte campus on the day after her lecture, about 300 Charlotte residents and 30 Queens students participated in conflict resolution workshops. The two-day program was presented by the North Carolina Humanities Council and Queens, with support from the Solutions Journalism Network, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Federation of State Humanities Councils

Haynes and Dr. Kim Weller, a professor in the Knight School of Communication at Queens, led the student workshop.

“In our workshop, we were with primarily college students and part of our role was to facilitate a conversation to get these students to practice looping, to practice listening to understand. I think the challenge is getting a large diverse, especially politically diverse, group of students together to do this.

“Republicans and Democrats can sit down and to have a civil conversation,” Haynes said. “A Christian and a Muslim and a Jew can sit down at a table together and have a conversation. To be able to focus more on our commonalities than our differences, I think that’s the important thing.

“These spaces are so important. On a college campus, it’s a matter of how we get students to come to events like these. This is a life skill, and it’s important to spend time doing this. One obstacle that I think students have when they’re trying to deal with conflict is to actually deal with the situation. A lot of times we just want to avoid conflict, and often that’s not very helpful for anyone. So I think just getting students to enter in these spaces where they can navigate or deal with certain issues and try to resolve conflict between people — just getting them at the table can be challenging.”