January 07, 2022

National conflict resolution center: Confidently Communicating in Our New Normal

Emma Celeste, Assistant Project Manager, National Conflict Resolution Center

As 2021 ends, National Conflict Resolution Center (NCRC) thinks back upon the year and all the unique experiences it carried. As COVID-19 protocols changed and continue to change day-to-day, and as people are getting back out in the world, i.e., traveling, going to school and social events, our lives may have felt a little closer to normal.

For the scholars at e3 Civic High School in downtown San Diego, this rang very true to them as well. At NCRC, the opportunity to support and work with every student at e3 through two of our conflict resolution workshops arose, The ART of Inclusive Communication and the Bystander Challenge.

This was the students' first full school year back in-person since March of 2020. This made for a distinctive dynamic for the scholars and teachers and came with its own set of unique challenges and circumstances. For example, many of the scholars disclosed to us that they felt “extremely isolated and depressed” during the peak time of the pandemic. 

One scholar wrote “being away from people that I’m used to seeing every day made me feel isolated and lonely.” Another mentioned that their mental health “...took a very difficult turn because I lost a lot of my skills.”

It is important to note, kids and teens are constantly learning new ways to communicate effectively, how to emotionally regulate, and the ins and outs of social interaction with one another, as well as teachers and adults. Therefore, the time spent away from in-person interaction seems to have taken a small toll on their confidence/skills when it comes to interacting with others. With the implementation of the NCRC workshops, we were able to target those soft skills, break down emotional walls, help them build the skills back, and build up confidence in communication, problem-solving, and standing up for one another.

Freshman and sophomores took the ART of Inclusive Communication workshop which honed in on foundational communication skills surrounding conflict resolution in our ever-changing society.

The highest increase from pre to post training surveys was the student's ability to ask open-ended questions to determine an individual's needs, feelings and values when managing conflicts, which increased by 16.7% from the pre to post survey. The most common way students reported using the learned communication skills was divided equally between at home (23.1%), and when working with colleagues/peers (23.1%).

The juniors and seniors also took the Bystander Challenge, which focuses on standing up for others in tense situations or when you witness a microaggression or bullying. The highest increase from pre to post training surveys was for the statement, I can respond to disrespectful behavior in a manner where outcomes are positive, not negative, and on this question, there was a 21.3% increase for juniors and 32.3% increase for seniors.

When asked about the impact that these workshops had on the scholars, as well as the staff at e3 Civic High, Craig Bowden, the Interim Director of Scholar Support and Administration, stated,

“We are grateful that the NCRC provided the support and communication skill development that our scholars need. Social emotional learning and communication development are of utmost importance to our scholars on their journey to becoming caring, passionate, life-long learners and civic leaders prepared for college, workforce, and life. Our Surgeon General recently put out a report detailing the impact the pandemic has had on our youth's mental health. We have seen the impact firsthand. However, it is sometimes easy to forget the ongoing crisis we face since it is in some ways invisible. Prior to the pandemic it was already a challenging time to be a teenager - a toxic political environment, long ignored racial injustice, a climate disaster unfolding before their eyes, and social media companies preying on them for profit. The pandemic has seemingly super-charged these issues, the pace of change, the distance between the have and have nots, and the amount of daily conflict. It is a challenging time to be an adult let alone to be a teenager. NCRC and their amazing facilitators helped our scholars make the difficult transition to in-person learning less challenging.”

To learn more about NCRC or the programs mentioned, go to