Faculty of Law holds workshops for professors and staff to improve internal communications
In our quest to deliver an excellent and relevant legal education, the Faculty of Law provided training on developing basic conflict resolution skills to members of the law school faculty and administrative staff. The six engaging workshops, led by Winnipeg company Facilitated Solutions, were designed to inspire while providing practical tools for dealing with everything from everyday tensions to highly charged social and political realities. Offered to students, faculty, staff, Deans and Directors, and attended by the majority of the people working in the Faculty of Law during the 2023-2024 academic year, the workshops taught how to engage in difficult conversations as opposed to simply avoiding them entirely or continuing in unresolved conflict.
Sponsored by the Dean’s Office, the Directors of Professional Development and Program Development, the Faculty of Law’s EDI Committee, and with funds from the Faculty Development Initiatives Fund of the Office of the Provost and Vice-President, the workshops explored conflict under two broad banners: how to understand divisive conflicts and how to create an environment for healthy conversation.
A key take-away from these workshops included that when seeking to understand a problem, rather than to provoke shame or resentment, it is important to recognize that contemporary communication can be difficult to receive or respond to – especially when tensions are high and emotions are involved. These workshops equipped faculty and staff with skills that might help them diffuse difficult conversations, and to provide tools for responding to emotionally charged statements or points of view expressed by others.
Another lesson was that the problem with divisive conflict is that everyone has some baggage, gets caught in unproductive cycles of habitual reactivity, carries outdated beliefs and repeats ineffective and offensive behaviors, and often fails to truly listen to others or to speak their minds clearly. Part of diffusing difficult verbal situations is to learn from past experiences, re-examine assumptions and engage more intentionally with colleagues by honing the discipline to listen to others. In this way, we can better hear what others are saying, and enhance our ability to be heard by others.
In these difficult times of reconnecting post-pandemic, faculty and staff were grateful to learn some simple skills to enable ways to communicate more respectfully, with insight, and to work towards social transformation rather than contributing to the creation of divisiveness, fear, pain, polarization and isolation within others and oneself. Following the workshops, participants shared that they felt more equipped and empowered for those occasions when they are confronted with difficult conversations.