We are off to a great start this school year, and after three days we’ve handled our share of conflict. Inevitably, conflict will arise in our school community. Let’s face it, not everyone will be happy with every decision made by teachers or principals. In this post, we’ll discuss a few key ideas for managing conflict to yield the best results for all involved. For our purposes as a school community we will use the following definition of conflict. Conflict is a form of friction, disagreement, or discord arising within a group or by an individual. While there are many types of conflict, we’ll use that definition as the one to describe most the conflict we see in schools.
Identify the Root of Your Conflict
The first key idea to successful conflict resolution sounds simple; however, many times it is not. Over time every student, parent, or teacher has interactions with others that may feed future conflict. Unresolved conflict from the past will compound the current issues. Before attempting to communicate with the other party, first identify the conflict without allowing the past to impact the current situation. I remember my mom teaching me from a very young age that it was better to handle one situation, or conflict, at a time because if you don’t you’ll only be more emotional when you finally decide to deal with it.
Remove the Emotion
Too many times I have observed adults allow their emotions to be the driving force in communication as they attempt to resolve conflict. If given the opportunity, children respond in this way as well. The second key idea to successful conflict resolution is to get your emotions in check. Whether the situation has made you angry or sad, heightened emotion will only decrease your ability to decide which are the right questions to ask. Only by asking the right questions will you get the information you need in order to move to the next key idea, which is listening to understand.
Listening to Understand
Ok, let’s be honest. This one is really difficult. It may be the most difficult of our key ideas to implement in the process of conflict resolution. Remember, if we’ve made it to this key idea we have identified our issue and removed the emotion we feel in order to ask the right questions. We have a strategy to teach this in schools, and I have included it below. Using I statements, children begin to process their emotions and communicate what it is they want and need from those around them. As adults, we need to ask questions in order to seek answers. Remember, though, that even if we ask the right questions it is for the sole purpose of listening to the answers. Many adults, myself included, are guilty of listening to respond in order to get what they want. Truly listening, especially when we are in conflict, is essential to be able to determine if there are ways to negotiate a solution.
Click below for a strategy for helping children with conflict resolution:
Negotiate a Solution
By the time we make it to this key idea, both parties clearly understand the conflict. It is likely both sides understand the position of the other, and a mutual solution may be clear to all. If there isn’t a clear solution at this time, the conversation may have revealed fundamental differences in your position. If this is the case, it is important to find a win-win compromise when possible.
Will there be times during our school year where you feel as if our concerns weren’t heard? It is our goal to say, “No!” Remember, there are a few principles present in our approach to resolving conflict: be calm, be patient, and have respect. Many times resolving conflict is more about the approach taken than the solution, because when both sides of conflict seek to understand each other many times that mutually agreed solution becomes crystal clear!