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Books, Essays, Articles, Links, Scholarly Papers, Videos and Teaching Materials on Interpersonal Communication Skills, Conflict Resolution and Human Development

  Dennis Rivers, MA, Editor  

Open Source: Many items listed on this page are published by The New Conversations Initiative and are available free of charge and may  be reproduced under a Creative Commons copyright license. Look for the Creative Commons logo: 

Table of Contents


Seven Challenges Teaching Materials

The Seven Challenges Workbook and Reader  is available free of charge as a PDF file, a series of PDF files, and a series of web pages. (Printed copies available for purchase.)  (Dennis Rivers)


En Español:  Los Siete Retos 

Em Português: Os sete desafios

Other languages: volunteer translators wanted

A One-page Summary of the Seven Challenges

A single page version complete with the same color cartoon illustrations that appear in the Workbook. (Dennis Rivers)

PDF Format

The Cooperative Communication EMERGENCY KIT

A one-page list of suggestions about how to manage and resolve conflicts. (Dennis Rivers & Paloma Pavel)

What Kind of Person Am I Becoming?  What Kind of People Are We Becoming Together?

Reflections on interpersonal communication and the journey of becoming a person. (Dennis Rivers)


Three Deep Lessons on the Road to Communicating More Compassionately

A 20-min talk by Dennis Rivers on the evolving edge of communication skills learning and teaching.

Reflections on the Struggle to Be Honest

Honest conversations viewed as counseling  and counseling viewed as conversations that allow for honesty (Dennis Rivers)

The Geometry of Dialogue: A Visual Way of Understanding Interpersonal Communication and Human Development

Drawings and book.  (Dennis Rivers) The page linked by the title above contains links to mandala-like flow charts in PDF format, and to my 210-page exploratory study.  This material was a major part of my graduate work toward an M.A. degree in interpersonal communication and human development, which I received in 1997 from the Vermont College Graduate Program.  The study is the theoretical foundation of the Seven Challenges Workbook , (complete with more footnotes than anyone would ever want to read).  It is my effort to work out the communication training implications of current thinking in the field of human development, using visual models as organizing tools.

Mirror Neurons, Inverwovenness, and Empathy

New discoveries in science have big implications for communication and conflict resolution.  Here is a summary from best-selling author, Jeremy Rifkin.

For a large collection of resources on this topic, see the  Center for Building a Culture of Empathy .


Sam Keen on asking creative questions

Radical Questions For Critical Times by Sam Keen, teacher, writer of many books, and compassionate observer of the human drama.  This article explores questions that expand our horizons and deepen our engagement with life.  According to Dr. Keen, “Your question is the quest you’re on. No questions — no journey. Timid questions — timid trips. Radical questions — an expedition to the root of your being. Bon voyage.”

This article has been included as a reading in Chapter 5 of the Seven Challenges Workbook.  For more information about Dr. Keen’s books and workshops please visit www.samkeen.com


The late and very-much-missed
W. Barnett Pearce (1943 – 2011)

taught communication studies at major universities and wrote many books and papers on interpersonal communication and public dialogue.  His work continues in the hands of the many students and colleagues he nurtured, encouraged, and co-created with.  (You can see this unfolding at The CMM Institute for Personal and Social Evolution .)

(documents below are from the www.pearceassociates.com  web site)

MAKING SOCIAL WORLDS BETTER:  (PDF file) Towards a grammar of ways of working that improve situations. (Great ideas, some sections difficult reading! Editor.)

Note:  In order to keep many footnotes and references in place, this article is only available as an Adobe PDF file.  If you have not yet installed the free Adobe Acrobat Reader on your computer, expand your online experience by downloading (and installing) it today from www.adobe.com.

Introductory excerpt from MAKING SOCIAL WORLDS BETTER:

A friend exclaimed, “What a wonderful world! Water falls out of the sky; food grows right out of the ground; and we get to keep all the love that we can make!”  In less exuberant terms, Richard Rorty described our social worlds as largely “contingent” and the quality of our lives determined by the consequences of our collective actions.  And so the question is, what kind of world are we making? What kind of world can we make?

Perhaps there was a time in which predators (the cave bear?), competitors (Neanderthals?) or cataclysms (the Flood?) threatened humankind (the species, not just an individual), but we have become the dominant life form on the planet and – within some broad limits – the collective authors of our own fate. The greatest threats we face, as well as our greatest opportunities, are the products of our own ingenuity, initiatives and actions. Among other things, this implies a dramatic shift from the technical question of “will we survive?” to the aesthetic and moral questions of “how well can we live?” and “how can we live well?”


W. Barnett Pearce and Kimberly A. Pearce

Excerpt: Until recently, the disciplinary study of communication has apparently had little impact on the development of thought and practice of dialogue. To the best of our knowledge, none of the seminal figures in dialogue formally studied communication and none based their thinking about dialogue on theories of communication. For example, although the first chapter of David Bohm’s (1996) On Dialogue is titled “Communication,” the short (four page) treatment shows no connection to the scholarly work done by the academic discipline of communication. Martin Buber’s (1958) work was grounded in his philosophical investigations of the qualities of different forms of interpersonal relationships. Mikhael Bakhtin’s concept of dialogue emerged from a preoccupation with language and literature from the perspective that “No word can be taken back, but the final word has not yet been spoken and never will be spoken” (Morson & Emerson, 1990, p. 52). In a similar manner, most practitioner organizations that focus on dialogue ground their work on sources other than communication theory and research. For example, the Public Conversations Project applies concepts from family therapy to the public discourse (Chasin, et al., 1996); the National Issues Forums grounds their work on classical models of deliberation (Mathews, 1994, pp. 111-116); and Study Circles (2002) develop their practices on concepts of participatory democracy. …

In addition to asking what [the growing body of work on] dialogue has to offer [the field of] communication [studies], we wonder what communication theory and research might offer for understanding and practicing dialogue.

At Home in the Universe with Miracles and Horizons: Reflections on Personal and Social Evolution

This is version 3.1 of the earlier paper posted in this space. It was originally written as a gift for participants in the Festschrift that dear friends organized in my honor, and has mutated into a statement of sorts of my perception of where I have been (e.g., my life’s work), where we are (e.g., all of us, in the universe), and the meaning of life (as a teaser: “wholly but not fully human”). Among other things, I have a coherent statement of what I mean by “making better social worlds.” If such a rambling document has a thesis statement, it is: To be at home in the universe is to know the universe as well as we can, to know our place in the universe as well as we can, and to be, as fully as we can, what we are – the seventh miracle; the makers of better social worlds through the coordinated enactment of compassion, empathy and mindfulness. Enjoy!

Dialogue and Deliberation, Virtuosity as a Practitioner, and Taking a Communication Perspective

Written for the Dialogue, Deliberation and Public Engagement graduate certificate program, Fielding Graduate University, July, 2007

in this paper, I want to focus on the question of how we can make a world in which people participate in making the decisions that affect them. And this starts at what might seem an unusual place: communication….

I am more convinced than ever that attention to forms of communication is an important and relatively neglected leverage point for dealing with such issues. To put it bluntly, I believe that if we can get the form of communication “right,” then the best things possible will happen. Further, I believe that focusing on the forms of communication – in addition to or instead of focusing on the “issues” themselves – is the best way of breaking through the self-sustaining patterns that hold in place the problems we want to address.

  Going Public: Working Systemically in Public

This paper has been published in Spanish, Portugese and Italian, but not in English.

We have learned many things from systemic practitioners. We’ve tried to extend this work by moving from private face-to-face conversations to work in public with the public. We found that some aspects of systemic practice is robust enough to survive the shift in contexts and that we had to make some adjustments.

Toward Communicative Virtuosity

Presented to “Modernity as a communication process (Is modernity ‘on time’?)”, a seminar sponsored by the Department of Communications and Social and Political Theories, Russian State University for Humanities, Moscow, April 15, 2005.

I believe that we (collectively) make the social worlds in which we live by the way we communicate with each other (this is what I call “the communication perspective”). To think of communication this way requires concepts that include temporal extension and pattern recognition. In this paper, I offer a some concepts for thinking holistically about communication (using a gradient of increasingly large concepts) and revisit my earlier descriptions of “forms” of communication. Using a case study of incivility in contemporary American political discourse, I argue that changing communicative acts is unlikely to produce desired improvement. Instead, we need to develop the ability to discern and differentiate among forms of communication, and learn how to call preferred forms of communication into being.

Civic Maturity: Musings about a Metaphor

Presented at the Action Research Symposium, Fielding Graduate University, July, 2001.

I’ve been involved in projects that improve the quality of public communication about public issues in cities; my concern was how to make these improvements permanent and/or sustainable. As the title suggests, this paper was a record of and vehicle for thinking about this issue, not a statement of conclusions reached. For the complete Proceedings of this symposium, go to: https://www.fielding.edu/research/ar2001.htm .

Reflections on the role of “dialogic communication” in transforming the world.

Presented to “Change and Development at the Turn of the Millennium” On the occasion of DISPUK’s Tenth Anniversary, Rhodes, October 9-13, 2000

Scenario-planning is a powerful technology that guides decision-making in the present by envisioning possible futures. This essay is both a reflection on “epistemology” (the study of how we know) and a critique of a particular instance of scenario-planning. The critique claims that the process of scenario-planning per se depends on a very high level of good communication but that the possibility of that quality of communication is not included as one of the drivers of change when developing the scenarios themselves. I argue that whether “dialogic communication” becomes a normal part of society is a major determinant of the kind of future we will have, and thus decisions in the present should focus on improving the quality of communication.

Systems: Schools of Thought and Traditions of Practice

I have learned a great deal from systems theorists and systemic practitioners. This essay is my attempt to make some useful distinctions among the various schools and traditions. This file is a 400k .pdf file. You will need Acrobat Reader to view it.

Thinking about Systems and Thinking Systemically

This unpublished paper is a meditation on the distinction made in the title. It argues that both are useful but that they are not the same thing and have very different values and potential usages.

Leah Wells Teaching Peace

A Guide for the Classroom and Everyday Life

by Leah C. Wells Published by Nuclear Age Peace Foundation , 2003. (PDF format, 84 pages)

  from the introduction:   This is a book for people who are interested in learning more about not only what peace education is, but where it is, when it is and how it is. It is about hearing perspectives on how it is taught, reading evidence that peace education is working, learning about the struggles and case studies and present-day evidence that nonviolence works and is not mere passivity as it is often mislabeled. This book is an opportunity to learn more about liberation education and to participate in the vision of how American education is an integral part of a global revolution to create balance and harmony between people, nature, technology, religion, economics and many other disciplines.

Leah Wells is a teacher and writer with a Bachelor of Science in Linguistics from Georgetown University. She has taught high school classes in Washington, DC, and California, lectured in cities all over the United States, and written extensively on the topic of teaching peace. Leah co-coordinates the National Campaign on Peace Education, a project endorsed by several notable organizations such as the Hague Appeal for Peace and the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, to network teachers and learners working on peace education across the US.

Thanks to Leah Wells and the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation  for making this document available.


Books and Essays by Gene Knudsen Hoffman (1919 – 2010)

Quaker (Religious Society of Friends) Writer and Peace Activist

“An enemy is one whose story we have not heard.”  (GKH)

view Gene Knudsen Hoffman items as separate page

Compassionate Listening: An Exploratory Sourcebook

(a free, 33-page PDF document) Perspecitives and Resources About Conflict Transformation By Gene Knudsen Hoffman, Leah Green and Cynthia Monroe. Introduction by Dennis Rivers

Gene Knudsen Hoffman

~~~  E S S A Y S   ~~~

Introduction to these essays

Compassionate Listening — First Step to Reconciliation?

Speaking Truth to Power 

No Conflict, No Reconciliation 

An Enemy Is One Whose Story We Have Not Heard

Listening for Truth 

On Preventing Future Holocausts

Review of Forgiveness: Breaking the Chain of Hate,   by Michael Henderson.

Spirit and Trauma: A Universalist World View   as an Instrument of Healing.  
Published by the Quaker Universalist Fellowship in 1994.  

“Compassionate Listening”

and other writings by Gene Knudsen Hoffman,

Quaker Peace Activist and Mystic

Edited and introduced by Anthony Manousos

“For more than half a century, Gene Hoffman—through her essays and poetry, her workshops and speeches, her travels and her witness—has been a fountainhead of creative spirituality and courageous peacemaking. This will be a rich resource for those who come after her.—Richard Deats, Editor of Fellowship magazine, Author of Martin Luther King, Junior, Spirit-led Prophet (Faithworks, 1999).

Click here for link to Amazon Books

Dennis Rivers

Essays and articles. For Seven Challenges books and teaching materials, click here . Dennis welcomes dialogue on all these topics.  You can e-mail him through our contact form .  (For a complete listing of Dennis’s books and essays, all available free of charge in pdf or html format,  please visit www.karunabooks.net )

Beyond the Hall of Mirrors: Reflections on War, Terror and Human Interaction  (2005 – 2018)

Essay: The Love of Children May Hold the Salvation of the World   —  Reflections on Israel, Palestine and America 

This essay explores one possible value or principle that could make a stronger claim on people than revenge and nationalism.  I am especially concerned about this because personal and national revenge seem to make so much sense, yet lead their followers into a spiral of escalating injury from which there appears to be no exit.  I propose that focusing on the love of children could provide a face-saving way for all sides to back away from the brink of mutual destruction.  It would not be easy or automatic, but it would be worlds better than what is going on now.

Translations in PDF format: PORTUGUESE   ROMANIAN

Diagram: The Spiral Journey Empowerment & Resilience Map

Article: Companions in the Storm, Companions in Blessing: Explores the role of deep friendship in the mending of a broken world

Article: Teams-of-Two: A Model for Personal Unfolding, Citizen Activism and Social Transformation,  explores a vision of social-change organizing focused on independent supportive pairs.

MORE…  complete listing of Dennis Rivers’s web sites plus books and essays online

Links to “Systems Approach” Resources

Gathered by the Common Knowledge Group

Dialogue and Public Participation

National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation – offers a wide range of dialogue resources, such as a listing of 150 participatory practices

International Association for Public Participation

The Institute for Local Government – Public Engagement and Collaborative Governance Program

The Appreciative Inquiry Commons

Community Capacity

The Asset-Based Community Development Institute and the Abundant Community blog

Dr. Thomas Armstrong’s interpretation of Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences (insight into different ways that people can be smart – and what talents are waiting to be tapped)

Dr. Leslie Shelton’s application of the Theory of Multiple Intelligences for adult learners

Nature as Teacher about Living Systems – a quick sampling of various ways into systems thinking that works with (instead of resists) our fundamental interconnectedness

Center for Ecoliteracy – Systems Thinking

Meg Wheatley’s Website

Joanna Macy’s Observations on Living Systems

A quick overview of Adaptive Leadership

An overview of Buckminster Fuller’s Design Science

Resources on Civility

The Meaning of Civility (1997) by Guy Burgess, Ph.D. and Heidi Burgess, Ph.D. Co-Directors, Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado

Wikipedia on Civility as Civic Virtue  – includes brief history of the concept.

“Civic virtue has historically been taught as a matter of chief concern in nations under republican forms of government, and societies with cities. When final decisions on public matters are made by a monarch, it is the monarch’s virtues which influence those decisions. When a broader class of people become the decision-makers, it is then their virtues which characterize the types of decisions made.”

The Civility Project includes The Civility Pledge (which is open to everyone):

I will be civil in my public discourse and behavior. I will be respectful of others whether or not I agree with them. I will stand against incivility when I see it.

Stochastic Terrorism: Triggering the Shooters   by G2geek at DailyKos

Stochastic [randomly inspired] terrorism is understood as having five elements:

the systematic use of mass communication such as internet,tv and radio, expressing anger, vilification and violent imagery to stir up mentally/emotionally unstable, random “lone wolves” to carry out violent or terrorist acts that are statistically predictable given the level of stimulation and provocation, but individually unpredictable, leaving the persons or organizations who incited the violence apparently free of any responsibility for it.

An example of this would be Glenn Beck’s repetition of the phrase “shoot them in the head/shoot me in the head” on his June 9, 2010 television show, which suggests, in a joking and deniable way, that murder is an appropriate expression of frustration or disagreement. Another example is U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann’s request that people be “armed and dangerous” to fight climate-change legislation.  In a global context, the deliberate and continuous vilification of the Tutsis in radio broadcasts to the Hutus played an important role in fomenting the Rwandan mass murders of 1994. The great challenge in developing the idea of stochastic terrorism, and in exposing and denouncing the stochastic terrorists, is that we run the risk of becoming trapped in spirals of endless denunciation.  I suggest that we translate the idea of stochastic terrorism into the idea of “indirect moral responsibility,” and affirm that indirect moral responsibility is a fundamental part of human life.  In public life, we are all responsible for the bad feelings we incite in others, and the good feelings we inspire in them, too. That would lead us toward the practice of what the Buddhists call ” Right Speech ,” and what the communication coach Marshall Rosenberg, PhD, has described at length in his many books as a language of compassion .  [DR]

Evergreen State College Social Contract

Article: Words Matter: How Media Can Build Civility or Destroy It

Keeping your communication cool when the situation gets hot  The www.newconversations.net Conflict Resolution Emergency Kit

Approaches to Conflict Resolution   –  Ewan W. Anderson  –  British Medical Journal An overview for aid workers in conflicts that arise in the aftermath of wars and natural disasters.

Standards for Civility Among Wikipedia Editors  as they apply to the thousands of co-editors of the online encyclopedia.

Conducting Track II Peacemaking — By Heidi Burgess and Guy Burgess Published by the U.S. Institute for Peace

In the world of diplomacy and peacemaking, “Track I” usually consists of face to face negotiations focused on one or another pressing, specific issues.  The chronic failures of Track I negotiations to achieve their intended aim have led would-be peacemakers to search for alternatives.  Track II peacemaking is focused on dialogue and trust-building among the conflict participants.  It brings parties together across conflict lines to talk, build relationships, engage in joint civic projects, or even develop new ideas about potential political solutions to the conflict. [DR]

Conflict Resolution Information Service  Large online library sponsored by the University of Colorado — 20,000 resources.    

The Conflict Resolution Network ,  New South Wales, Australia

12 Skills Summary   Fighting Fair A4 Poster   Fighting Fair Guide

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Overview of Alternative Dispute Resolution  (PDF – 71 pages.)

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for many giant public works projects in the U.S. that involve rivers, and hence has been involved for two hundred years in trying to find workable compromises among contending parties that include local governments and large businesses.  In addition to theOverview of Alternative Dispute Resolution , the Corps maintains a library of case studies on conflicts resolved.  All of this material in interesting in relation to topic of civility, because it shows evolving processes of respectful disagreement and dialogue in the everyday world of business and government.  While these practices have not yet become the predominant way of handling conflict in modern society, they are well established in specific areas and represent a well of resources and examples from which we all may draw inspiration and instruction. [DR]

Public Conversations Project  (PCP) of the Family Institute of Cambridge, MA

PCP was created when a televised debate on abortion caused Cambridge, MA, family therapist Laura Chasin to question how family therapy practices could improve polarized conversations about abortion and other public issues.

A family therapist and faculty member at the Family Institute of Cambridge, Chasin, with four other professionals, founded PCP in 1989. Since then, PCP has pioneered a distinctive, effective approach to dialogue that shifts communication to enhance understanding, repair relationships, and rebuild trust. Drawing upon mediation, traditional conflict resolution, and consensus building, the organization developed dialogue practices that have been tested throughout the world in conflicts ranging from religion to the environment.  [project info from PCP web site]

Guest Essays, Articles and Web Sites

The Role of Dialogue in Resolving Community Conflicts (from PBS) Melinda Smith is a conflict resolution expert who has worked in Kalispell, Montana, to help the residents to come to an agreement about sharply contested land-use issues.

Positive Deviant is a magazine article about the transformative power of deep listening, as it occurred in a program to reduce child malnutrition in Vietnam.  It is one of the clearest examples I have ever read of what is now called “appreciative inquiry,” which advocates that helpers pay disciplined and systematic attention to the strengths, capacities and past successes of those people they wish to help.

Sandhi Institute  Nonviolent communication training and community building in war-torn Sri Lanka.

Beyond Intractability  (conflict resolution resources) Initially created by a team of more than 200 distinguished scholars and practitioners from around the world, the Beyond Intractability Knowledge Base is built around an online “encyclopedia” with easy-to-understand essays on almost 400 topics. These essays explain the many dynamics which determine the course of conflict along with available options for promoting more constructive approaches.

Please suggest great articles you have read for this section. Send suggestions via our CONTACT page. On behalf of the world-wide cooperative communication skills extended community, I would like to express our deep appreciation for the contributions of our guest scholars and essayists, past and present: Leah Wells, (Ms.) Gene Knudsen Hoffman, Barnett Pearce, Sam Keen.

Dennis Rivers, Editor

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