Previously, the overall concepts of conflict and crisis communication were examined as a methodology for influencing and persuading behavioral change (Vecchi, 2009b). This article will build upon that foundation by examining and detailing the critical task of putting conflict and crisis communication theory into practice through the application of specific strategies and tactics. Specifically, the Behavioral Influence Stairway Model (BISM) (NCNC, 2003; Vecchi, Van Hasselt, & Romano, 2005; Vecchi, 2009a) will serve as the basis of the overall strategy to be employed in conflict and crisis situations in developing a "relationship" by which the communicator influences the person in crisis to comply. Several communication approaches will also be covered, which will serve as the tactics by which the communicator can apply the BISM strategy to various situations. Finally, suicide intervention methodology will be examined to illustrate strategies and tactics derived from the BISM.
Determining Communication Approaches in Conflict and Crisis Situations
People communicate to satisfy needs, whether they are instrumental or expressive. Wilmot & Hocker (1998) categorize needs as falling into one of four general categories: 1) content, 2) relational, 3) identity, and 4) process. Content needs are substantive, such as food, money, or transportation. Relational needs have to do with the way people treat one another; if someone feels disrespected or patronized, then this need would be lacking. Identity needs have to do with feelings of security, saving face, and recognition. Process needs relate to the structure or forum of the dialogue--mediation versus court hearings or formal versus informal. People also communicate on two levels: content and emotion. These levels vary. depending on the degree of conflict or crisis that a person is experiencing (Vecchi, 2009a, 2009b).
Although both conflict and crisis situations can have both substantive and expressive components, it is the focus that distinguishes between them. In conflict situations such as hostage-taking, kidnapping, divorce, or high stakes mediation, the focus is on substantive or content needs, such as trading hostages for money or obtaining custody of children. Conflict situations are rational and require problem-solving approaches (Dattilio & Freeman, 2000; Fisher, Ury, & Patton, 2001; Mullins, 2002; Rogan, Hammer, & Van Zandt, 1997; Slatkin, 2005; Ury, 1991). Conversely, in crisis situations such as suicide, the focus is on expressive or identity needs, such as ventilating emotions, saving face, or recognition (Booth, Vecchi, Finney, Van Hasselt, & Romano, 2009; Daniels, Royster, & Vecchi, 2007; Greenstone & Leviton, 2002; McMains & Lanceley, 2003; Rogan, Hammer, & Van Zandt, 1997; Rosenbluh, 2001; Slatkin, 2005; Van Hasselt, Flood, Romano, Vecchi, de Fabrique, & Regini, 2005). Crisis situations have the additional element of the person having exceeded his or her ability to cope; these situations are irrational and require crisis intervention approaches (Vecchi, 2009a, 2009b). A litmus test that can be used to assist the communicator in determining whether the situation calls for crisis intervention or problem-solving is to ask two questions:
1. Is the person rational and goal-oriented?
2. Does the person want to talk to the communicator?
If the answer is yes...
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