The power of Why


Institutional Communication Service

14 April 2020

In this time of health emergency, it is inevitable to live in close contact with our loved ones. In a short video Sara Greco, senior assistant professor at USI Faculty of Communication, Culture and Society, talks about two tools that might help overcome disagreement in our daily life.

With teleworking, family and work have to coexists for an extended period of time. Long-distance meetings, children's assignments, daily parcels: the routine is perceived more intensely than usual, and disagreement may be just around the corner. In her research at USI Institute of Argumentation, Linguistics and Semiotics Sara Greco, deals with argumentation, which she describes as an essential tool to prevent conflicts and resolve friction and misunderstanding, a topic also addressed in a recent publication of her own "From conflict to dialogue". So what does linguistics and argumentative theory suggests in order to manage disagreement in our daily life?

"Disagreement is a driver of change, an opportunity for learning and knowledge. It is to be seen as a positive experience, and not as a factor of conflict - explains Greco - Disagreement and differences of opinion are the starting point of argumentative dialogue, in which the participants commit to solve disagreement in a reasonable fashion through weighting arguments pro and against each position in a constructively critical fashion". When it is not marked by quality communication, however, disagreement can degenerate into conflict through a process of escalation. Here are two tools to avoid escalation.

The first concerns the power of questions: when confronted with behavior that we do not condone, instead of pointing the finger, it is important to ask why. Asking open - and not rethorical - questions creates a scenario that the other person must take into consideration. The second tool consists in giving a name to emotions, "it is in fact important to give emotion a space in the dialogue and, by defining them, we express what makes us feel bad and thus help the other to better understand our reasons" continues Greco.


Sara Greco also told us about her research during the campaign 100 women and thousands more. The article is available here.

Below are some recommended readings to deepen the theme:

  • Greco, S. (2020), Dal conflitto al dialogo. Santarcangelo di Romagna: Maggioli Editore.
    (General reference, related to argumentative dialogue, questions and the fact of "giving a name to emotions". At the end of the book, there are also some indications of readings and films to watch to reflect on the conflict).
  • Jones, T. S. (2001). Emotional communication in conflict: essence and impact. In W. Eadie e P. Nelson (Eds.), The language of conflict and resolution (pp. 81-104). Thousand Oaks: Sage. 
    (to deepen the concept of conflict as an emotional event, cited in the video).
  • Bush, R. A. B e Folger, J. P. (2005). The promise of mediation: The transformative approach to conflict. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
    (Reflections on how to reverse the spiral of escalation of conflict and transform the relationship between the parties).


The power of Why