Exercise 1

A. Listen. What is the conflict?

B. Listen again. Write C for Camila, I for Iris, or B for both.

___ 1   At first, she was confused.

___ 2   She thinks the meeting was a success.

___ 3   She was blamed for not meeting the deadline.

___ 4   She came down on someone during the meeting.

___ 5   It was not completely her fault.

___ 6   She apologized.

___ 7   She accepted the apology.



Camila thinks that Iris treated her unfairly.


1 I   2 I   3 C   4 I   5 C   6 B   7 B


Camila:   Excuse me Iris, do you have a minute?

Iris:   Sure, come on in. What’s on your mind?

Camila:   Well, this is a little sensitive, but…

Iris:   What’s wrong? You seem upset.

Camila:   I wouldn’t have said anything, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it last night.

Iris:   I’m afraid I’m not following. Thinking about what?

Camila:   Oh, sorry. The meeting yesterday…I wasn’t very happy with the way things went.

Iris:   I’m not sure what you’re getting at. I thought it was a good meeting. We made a lot of progress.

Camila:   I’m sorry. I wasn’t being clear. We did make good progress…but…well, I thought you came down on me pretty hard.

Iris:   I’m not following. Came down on you about what?

Camila:   I felt like you kind of laid into me about missing the first deadline.

Iris:   Really? Laid into you? I think that’s a bit of an exaggeration. I just wanted to make sure that we didn’t miss another deadline.

Camila:   Yes, but it seemed to me that you singled me out, when it wasn’t really my fault

Iris:   I’m not sure what you’re getting at. Whose fault was it?

Camila:   The art department was late with their designs, and that slowed us all down. I would have said something, but I didn’t want to point the finger at anyone.

Iris:   Oh, I see. I’m sorry if I was short with you. I didn’t mean to single you out, but I guess I can see how you might have felt that way. I just don’t want to fall behind on the project. I know I can be pretty intense sometimes, so I’m sorry if it felt like I was laying into you. In fact, I really appreciate all you do to keep us on track.

Camila:   That’s OK. And I’m sorry if I was overly sensitive. I just worked really hard on this project, and I want it to succeed.

Iris:   I understand. Thanks for coming to see me. So, can we let bygones be bygones?

Camila:   Absolutely. By the way, how’s your new kitten? You haven’t shown me any pictures lately.

Iris:   I was afraid you’d never ask! I just happen to have a couple of pictures right here…

Exercise 2

A. Listen. Circle the best title for the podcast.

a   How to Avoid Conflict

 How to Communicate More Effectively

c   How to De-escalate Difficult Situations

B. Listen again. Check (✓) the statements that Dr. Phipps would probably agree with.

It is best to avoid conflict.

Conflict is a normal part of everyday life.

It is extremely difficult to learn how to deal with conflict.

We communicate a lot of information through our body language.

Words do not matter very much in a conflict situation.

Challenging another person’s ideas can escalate a conflict.



Conflict is a normal part of everyday life.

We communicate a lot of information through our body language.

Challenging another person’s ideas can escalate a conflict.


A:   On today’s show, we have Dr. Peter Phipps, an expert on conflict resolution and crisis intervention. Dr. Phipps works with individuals who work in high conflict and crisis situations, including police officers, diplomats, and health care providers. However, as you will hear, his advice is down-to-earth and practical enough to apply to everyday life. In fact, had I met Dr. Phipps years ago, I’m sure I would have avoided a lot of problems in my life! Dr. Phipps, thank you for joining us today.

B:   Thank you for having me.

A:   So, let’s get started. Please share your advice for dealing with conflict with our audience.

B:   Well, first, let me say that conflict is not a dirty word. Anytime you interact with other people, there is the potential for conflict. We all have to learn how to manage conflict in our lives, whether it is at home, at college, or just going about our daily business. That said, should you find yourself in a difficult situation with someone, there are some very practical things that you can learn to do to de-escalate a tense situation.

A:   OK, great.

B:   One of the most useful things you can do is pay attention to the entire person, not just their words. Often people cannot identify or express their own feelings verbally, but they will show them. Take note of facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language.

At the same time, if you feel that a situation is becoming confrontational, keep your non-verbal communication neutral, and maintain a calm, steady tone of voice. Remember that when we communicate, what we show is often more powerful than the words we speak.

A:   That’s great advice. What else can you tell us?

B:   My third piece of advice is to give the other person space. Stand or sit at least one and a half feet away. Standing too close can make someone who is already upset feel trapped and can quickly escalate the situation.

Next, don’t rush to fill the silence. After you make a statement or a request, give the other person time to absorb what you’ve just said. Silence can be an important tool to help you cool off.

A:   Yes, that makes sense.

B:   My fifth piece of advice can be a little more difficult to do. Try not to respond to challenging questions or statements. If you respond, you’ll find yourself in a power struggle, which will only escalate the conflict. Instead, redirect the person’s attention to the situation at hand, and to working together to solve the problem.

And next, don’t judge the person, even if you think that what they are saying or doing is strange or irrational. Remember that what they’re feeling is real to them, so try to see the situation from their perspective. Don’t minimize their feelings. What they’re going through at that moment might be the most important thing in their lives, even if it seems trivial to you. You don’t need to agree with someone to understand them.

A:   You’re absolutely right.

B:   And, finally, do not overreact. You will only make the situation worse. Remain calm and professional, regardless of what the other person says or does. Use positive self-talk to remain focused, saying things to yourself such as “I can deal with this situation. I’ve dealt with more difficult situations in the past.”

A:   Thank you, Dr. Phipps. You’ve given us a lot of food for thought.

Exercise 3

A. Listen. What is the main idea of the talk?

B. Listen again. Take notes in the chart.

What conflict is:



How conflict is structured:

Types of conflict:



Why we like conflict:

C. What is the purpose of the talk?



Conflict is everywhere in fiction, and it’s what makes a story great.


What conflict is:

The struggles that characters encounter; conflict versus resolution is a fundamental feature of fiction books and films.


How conflict is structured:

Three-part narrative structure; an introduction or setup of conflict, a worsening of that conflict through something like confrontation, and finally a resolution.

Types of conflict:

Main character against a person, against him or herself, against society, against a machine, against the supernatural, against circumstance, or against nature. In most works of fiction, the main character will face some kind of social, physical, or psychological conflict.

Why we like conflict:

Escapism; insight into our own lives; purely for entertainment


to explain how conflict features in fiction narratives, and to promote this as a good thing


What Makes a Good Story?

We all love a good story, right? In my opinion, there’s nothing like getting lost in a good book or relaxing while watching a favorite movie. But what is it about stories that captivates us? That keeps us engaged? The answer is conflict. The struggles that characters encounter make us want to keep reading or watching to find out what happens.

Conflict versus resolution is a fundamental feature of fiction books and films. Without conflict there’s no story—at least not a very interesting one. Think about your favorite piece of fiction. I’m pretty confident that if I asked you to analyze it, it would include some kind of conflict. In fact, I can even tell you the types of conflict you’d find. It would be one of these: main character against a person, against him or herself, against society, against a machine, against the supernatural, against circumstance, or against nature. In most works of fiction, the main character will face some kind of social, physical, or psychological conflict. Chances are that he or she will also save the day by the end of the story, but I can’t guarantee that part.

The traditional three-part narrative structure—which is the classic plot line that you see in Hollywood movies—includes an introduction or setup of conflict, a worsening of that conflict through something like confrontation, and finally a resolution. Think of any of the classic Superman movies, for example. What happens? It sets up the premise of good vs. evil, makes the evil become progressively more dangerous, then, after confrontation, features the triumph of good over evil.

Now, I wish our literary heritage weren’t quite so predictable, but it is. While there are plenty of different plot devices that writers use to make stories appear varied and unique, it’s the conflict that’s essential. Without conflict, things are simply not engaging or real enough. Everyday life is full of obstacles, so we expect the journey we go on with the characters in a story to be full of obstacles, too. It might seem like fiction is escapism, but maybe it’s not. Maybe, rather than escape life’s woes and raw emotions, we really just want to see someone else deal with them for a while!

Or maybe conflict in fiction is a way to help us deal with conflict in our own lives. Watching fictional characters in a movie allows us to step back and look at a conflict from the outside, away from all the emotions that come with the challenges in our own lives. This can help us see how our decisions can resolve conflict…or make it worse. Reading about a fictional character allows us to experience conflict through his or her eyes. That ability to understand someone else’s point of view can go a long way toward resolving conflicts in real life. And perhaps, even show us that the conflicts or challenges we might face in real life aren’t so insurmountable after all.

Whether we’re looking for escapism, insight into our own lives, or just entertainment, conflict is key to creating an engaging story. It’s what makes us care about the characters and what happens to them. It’s what makes their triumphs so satisfying. It’s the conflict that makes the story great.

Exercise 4

A. Listen to the article. Who do you think is the intended audience of this article?

B. Listen again. Answer the questions, according to the article.

1   What specific examples does the writer give of kidnapping being used as a plot device?

2   Which of the revenge movies listed does the writer like? How do you know?

3   Is the writer critical of any movies featuring assassination? If so, how?

4   How are the examples of escape and oppression connected?



Possible answer: This is a clickbait article, which would be shared across social media. Its primary audience would be those interested in films, specifically action movies, but its readership would extend to anyone generally interested in the topic, as the heading draws readers in.


Possible answers:

1   The writer mentions abduction, hostage situations, and hijacking.

2   The writer uses more neutral or positive adjectives to describe Kill Bill, Sleepers, The Fury of a Patient Man, and Enter the Dragon. He refers to Desperado as cheesy and suggests the plot of Death Wish has been overdone.

3   He is fairly neutral overall, but suggests that the James Bond franchise is repetitive and formulaic.

4   It could be inferred that soldiers escaping from a prisoner of war camp are being oppressed or controlled by their captors. The overall notion of freedom could suggest freedom from an oppressive force in general.


Top 5 themes used in action movies

Do action movies all seem the same? That’s because there are five basic plot devices all action movies recycle. It doesn’t matter which subgenre you’re watching; they all feature a variation on one of these five themes.

1   Kidnapping

The kidnapping plot device appears in many different guises, such as hostage situations, like Speed (1994), and hijackings, like Captain Phillips (2013). Standout movies featuring kidnapping or abduction include Ransom (1996), Montage (2013), and Prisoners (2013). The movie Taken (2008), which focused on a former government officer’s attempts to find his abducted daughter, was a huge commercial success.

2   Revenge

There are thousands of action movies where characters seek revenge against those who have wronged them. The Kill Bill movies are perhaps the best examples, although the long-running Death Wish franchise managed to single-handedly do this plot line to, well, death. The cheesy Desperado (1995), the hard-hitting Sleepers (1996), the intense The Fury of a Patient Man (2016), and one of the best-ever martial arts movies, Enter the Dragon (1973) are some other highlights. Revenge can be about personal retaliation, but this theme also includes getting justice for others (insert cop movie here).

3   Assassination

Action movies based on politics or war often feature an assassination attempt. Some of these films are based on factual events, such as JFK (1991) and Hero (2002), while others are fictional—Apocalypse Now (1979) and 13 Assassins (2011) being two of the most famous. As with any plot line, there are some movies that add substance to the theme, like the complex conspiracy The Bourne Identity (2002) and others that realize the theme is a winner and repeat it at every opportunity—see the James Bond franchise.

4   Escape

The list of places and things that actors have tried to escape from is pretty vast. It includes Planet of the Apes (1968), Escape from Alcatraz (1979), Train to Busan (2016), and “repetitive movies.” OK, that one’s a lie. A struggle for freedom is emotive, and eventual success is heartwarming, hence Hollywood revisits this theme so often. The Great Escape (1963), which tells the story of soldiers tunneling out of a POW camp during World War II, is genre defining. Interestingly, one of the most popular escape-themed movies of all time is the animated action-adventure Chicken Run (2000). This just shows how this theme really does reach every subgenre you can imagine.

5   Oppression

This common plot device in action movies calls for a change in tone. Most oppression-themed movies deal with serious or important topics. Films like I, Robot (2004) and Django Unchained (2012) address slavery. Mississippi Burning (1988) and American History X (1998) address racism. The Frontier (1991) addresses military oppression, V for Vendetta (2005) addresses political oppression, Seven Samurai (1954) addresses social oppression, and so on. Power struggles between oppressors and the oppressed are certainly a common theme in action movies.

Exercise 5

Listen. What is the condition of the sentence? Circle the correct answers.

1   a   If the manager hadn’t singled Taka out,

      b   If Taka hadn’t done something wrong,

2    a   If I got on her nerves,

      b   If she didn’t complain about everything,

3    a   If we made things easier,

      b   If he listened to us,

4    a   If they got along for more than five minutes,

      b   If they argued again,

5    a   If Kim hadn’t intervened,

      b   If Kim had intervened sooner,

6    a   If we weren’t at odds with him,

      b   If he had talked to us instead of our manager,


1 b   2 b   3 b   4 a   5 a   6 b


1   I wonder why our manager was picking on Taka at the meeting today. Taka must have done something wrong. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have been singled out like that.

2   I wouldn’t mind sitting next to Aya, but she complains about everything, and it really gets on my nerves.

3   I wish he would listen to us for a change. It would certainly make things easier.

4   Are Lin and Peyton arguing again? Why can’t they get along for more than five minutes? It would make things a lot less tense around the office.

5   Alex really laid into Tarek today. It made everyone in the office uncomfortable. I’m glad Kim finally intervened. Without Kim’s intervention, the argument might not have ever ended.

6   Caleb went to our manager about the problem instead of talking to us. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be at odds with him now.

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