Library of Articles and Learning/Teaching Resources

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 Items Included: The specific items on this page that are published by
Communication-Skills.Net and/or The New Conversations Initiative are available
free of charge and may
be reproduced under a Creative Commons copyright
license. Please look for the Creative Commons logo for free-to-use materials: 

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

Order paperback from ($12 + shipping)

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.


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


Prof. 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 .)

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

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?"

(from the Fitchburg State University Digital Archive) (temporarily not available)

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 (temporarily not available)

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   (from the Fitchburg State University Digital Archive)

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
(from the Fitchburg State University Digital Archive)

This paper has been published in Spanish, Portuguese 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
(from the Fitchburg State University Digital Archive)

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.

Leah Wells Teaching Peace

click to download pdf
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.

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 )

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

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 Emergence and Living Systems

A quick overview of Adaptive Leadership

An overview of Buckminster Fuller’s Cooperating Manual for Spaceship Earth

Resources on Civility

Free teaching materials
on the topic of civility and conflict resolution

FREE Article >>
The Meaning of Civility

Burgess, Heidi and Guy M. Burgess. "The Meaning of Civility." Beyond Intractability. Eds. Guy Burgess and Heidi Burgess. Conflict Information Consortium, University of Colorado, Boulder. Posted: 2019<>.

Compassionate Listening:
An Exploratory Sourcebook About Conflict Transformation
(33 pages)
By Gene Knudsen Hoffman (1919 - 2010), Leah Green and Cynthia Monroe.
Edited and with an introduction by Dennis Rivers.

From the Introduction:  Gene Knudsen Hoffman was a remarkable woman, and this book is a report from the growing edge of a movement she pioneered, nurtured and mentored.  Forms of compassionate listening have been practiced among Quakers and Buddhists for centuries, and among psychotherapists for decades. Gene was both a Quaker peace activist and a pastoral counselor, and she achieved two great things over the last thirty years of her life.  First, she took the practice of compassionate listening out of the quiet environs of the Quaker meeting house, out from behind the closed doors of the therapy session, and on to the stage of the world’s greatest conflicts.  Her many trips to Russia and the Middle East made her a legend in the peacemaking community.  Second, she popularized compassionate listening in a generous way that invites and encourages other people to take up this practice, develop it and apply it in new areas.  This short book is an expression of that generosity.  Available free of charge around the world as an e-book, it includes several of her essays, her lesson plans for Compassionate Listening Workshops, and reports from Leah Green and Cynthia Monroe, two of her co-pioneers and creative colleagues.[DR]


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.

Editor's note: 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 Tutsi tribe in radio broadcasts aimed at the Hutu tribe 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, to some unknown degree, for the bad feelings we incite in others, and for the good feelings we inspire in them, also. 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

FREE PDF Article >>

Words Matter: How Media Can Build Civility or Destroy It

PDF Article / One-page hand-out for courses and classes >>
Keeping your communication cool when the situation gets hot
The 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.

Mission Statement:

We at the Conflict Information Consortium (CIC) believe that society's chronic inability to constructively handle intractable conflict constitutes a threat to human welfare that is at least as serious as that posed by climate change, infectious disease, or any of today's other big social, political, economic, and environmental challenges. In fact, it is our inability to constructively deal with intractable conflict that is making it so difficult for us to effectively meet these other challenges. 

The CIC's Mission, therefore, is to raise the profile of the intractable conflict problem and to greatly increase the number of people worldwide who have the motivation, knowledge, and resources needed to address it effectively. By using the Internet to collect and disseminate cutting-edge conflict knowledge, we aim to help people more effectively tackle all conflicts--ranging from the relatively simple small-scale ones, to the societal-level, complex, intractable conflicts which lie at the frontier of the peace and conflict field.

The Conflict Resolution Network ,  New South Wales, Australia

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. 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]

The Seven Challenges Workbook  (from this website)
Guide to Cooperative Communication Skills for Success at Home and at Work FREE

Civility is a style of conversation, and conversations weave together many elements of the lives of the participants, especially, awareness, attitudes and skills. Many discussions of civility focus on attitudes.  One way of looking at hostile social interactions is to explore what negotiation skills and strategies, or lack thereof, the participants bring into the conflict situation.  The Seven Challenges Workbook focuses on helping people expand their basic interaction skills.  The 100-page workbook is available free of charge, and may be copied and reproduced under a Creative Commons copyright license. [DR]

more to be added...

(If you would like to recommend a free resource to be included in this section, please click here and send a message to the Editor.)

Guest Essays, Articles and Web Sites


Positive Deviant is a magazine article about the transformative power of deep listening, as it occurred in a program to reduce child malnutrition.  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.

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.

A note from the Editor/Librarian, Dennis Rivers, MA

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Notes on information sources, content and copyrights: 

>>>>>The information featured on this page is drawn from one or more of the following sources: (A) my personal understanding of communication skills, human development and psychotherapy (as informed by my studies in psychology, sociology and pastoral counseling), (B)contributions from identified authors, (C)the Google and (D)Bing search engines, (E) and (F)Barnes & Noble book listings, (G)Google Books and (H)WorldCat library references, (I)Wikipedia, (J)Creative Commons resources found across the web, (K)the specific-book information pages of various book publishers, and (L) ChatGPT.

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>>>>> The information on this site is indended to provide education, inspiration and developmental encouragement, not medical care or psychotherapy. If you are experiencing intense distress, please seek emotional support and professional/spiritual help right away.

Dennis Rivers, MA, Editor