Conflict Resolution: Failures in Communication

Lawrence Ham
Jul 14, 2017 · 3 min read

TL;DR: I fabricate titles, followed by a hodgepodge of meaningless words.

As a child, I dreamed of becoming a cardiologist. Then I found myself fascinated with business and equities. In the early (through late) 2000s, I was fixated on project management and eventually leadership. Then I thought I wanted to go into ADR.

I consider the transition to be some rudimentary form of evolution. Business necessitates interaction with people, which in turn obligates management and efficiency, then urging leadership, and ultimately, the refinement of communication.

Everywhere I look around me, I see incredibly poor communication, which results in marred relationships with our friends, families, significant others, co-workers, and so on (yes, there’s a common thread to all the failures). Strangely, we’re capable of babbling by our terrible twos, gossiping by five, and prolifically spouting obscenities by our teens.

At the absolute zenith of technology, here we are, able to reach out to millions of people, not to mention the capability to ping our nearest and dearest (or teams) within milliseconds by phone, SMS, Facebook (Messenger), WhatsApp, WeChat, Snap(chat), LINE, Viber, Google Hangouts, Slack, Telegram, Voxer, Kik, Instagram, TouchNote, HipChat, Yammer, Quip, Teamplace,, and ChatWork. (Apologies on omitting the other 999,999.) Oh, and if you’re hipster AF, there’s always a landline.

Yet we can’t seem to convey or deconstruct our actual thoughts or emotions. Hilarity, or failure, ensues. The shortest line between thought and expression seems to be the on-demand selection of an emoji that best translates the sentiment. 😂

Exhibit A. The epitome of human communication at the height of civilization.

A thought or emotion — whose hues and intonations imbued with a finite concentration of neurotransmitters spattered across a scientifically irreproducible array of neurons — is probably far too complex to sum up into primitive words. Instead, we turn up with “I’m upset.” Well, with that level of ambiguity, we might as well default to “we need to talk” into perpetuity.

And so we fail to find — or perhaps verbally manifest — ourselves onto the same page as each other. And this difference in understanding results in variance, or simply put, a misunderstanding, which in turn — through some unknown sorcery — manifests into conflict (or in the alleged case of Japan, tragedy). But this is hardly contingent on communication alone. It’s also predicated on awareness and understanding.


Yes, we can both be staring at the exact same painting — to be trite, let’s say the Mona Lisa — and have completely disparate experiences. As I like to say, it is statistically impossible (a term I rarely use, mathematically) to have the same experience, as our experiences are an unbelievably unique permutation and culmination of our cultures, behaviors, education, vocabulary, thoughts, chemical balances or imbalances, upbringings, etc etc etc. In an almost primitive way, an experience is a point on a linear journey, our lives, ensconced and made meaning of (and meaningful) by every single preceding point on that line.

(Please don’t ask me what happens when we access that point via memory or this will turn into a dissertation.)

So to track back to awareness and understanding, we are required…obligated, if that, to create context around someone else’s comprehension if we want them to be on the same page as us.

In the words of Joe South, “before you abuse, criticize and accuse, walk a mile in my shoes.”

Remember, we must nearly physically convey someone from one point to another — from 0 to 1 — via mere words, all drawn in context to their comprehension.

Or maybe it’s just best to talk to everyone like they’re 5. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Suddenly, memes.

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