This week I have been working with my students in class on social emotional skills to help them grow their ability to get along better with peers at school, online and at home. As a veteran teacher I have seen my fair share of conflicts between students, staff and their peers. Most of the conflicts are honestly teenage drama that revolves around he said, she said stuff. In today’s world of the instant messaging on the thousands of applications things can escalate quickly.
It is not just teenagers though, I see here and there husbands, wives, sisters, brothers and friends going back and forth arguing their points or posting stuff in an attempt to start trouble or fuel the fire. By the way, my students refer to Facebook as the application for (older people). I guess I am old because I have a Facebook page. Anyways, back to the drama and how to resolve it. My students have found out that as soon as they tell me what is happening, the first thing I ask them is did you see it, hear it, feel it or witness anything about it. If not, then it did not happen and it is time to move on.
That works sometimes, but often they just cannot let it go because they are lacking the social-emotional skills to work through the conflict, find a common ground or just move on. Adults alike often struggle with social-emotional skills as well when they are facing tough situations in life. I actually saw an event yesterday at school during cross country practice as I was directing the team in some running drills that drove home the point that conflict resolution skills are lacking for many people.
We are on the track running some warmup laps and hear a car hit the brakes real fast stopping right in the middle of the road near the track. A man jumps out the window as the female driver is trying to roll it up on him to trap him in the car. He falls out of the window onto the ground, gets up and his pants fall to his knees and he starts to run from the car while trying to pull his pants up from the knees.
He falls down on the curb and as he is getting up, the female puts the car in reverse and slams on the gas driving backwards about twenty feet wide open. He gets to his feet and hollers at her to chill out and she throws the car in forward and proceeds to try to run over him. At this point my kids are just memorized by the craziness going on up on the road.
The guy takes off running across our campus parking lot and the driver hits the gas and jumps a curb in her mid 2000’s white Pontiac four door tearing the bumper off and damaging the sidewalk and grass. She jumps the curb goes down a small hill barely missing the stadium fence and the guy is running wide open and looking back to see where she is.
She is driving like a maniac and screaming out the window explicative words that I cannot type on my blog. He runs into a mans yard so she drives across the parking lot and into the mans yard almost hitting his truck in the process. She slams on brakes, backs up and takes off after him as he is running behind the house and in the process she tore up his yard as well.
At this point I have called 911 because we have kids on campus and this is taking place near the YMCA entrance also with lots of traffic coming in and out. The guys keeps running and weaves in and out of several yards going behind houses as she pursues him wide open with no regard for anyone else or their property. She was dead set on resolving the conflict by running over him and I do not know what he said to her, but man she was pissed off at him.
The guy keeps running and she spends the next few minutes cruising back and forth, up and down the road screaming for him and telling him to come get in the car. A few minutes later the police show up and she decides it was time to get gone, unfortunately running from the police didn’t end well for her as she got caught.
I tell this true story that just happened yesterday to say that this young lady and man obviously have some issues to work on after she gets out of jail for attempted murder or whatever the charges will be. So now lets talk about how we can avoid conflict and work to resolve it if we run into issues with family, friends, co-workers and strangers. I pulled some conflict resolution strategies from my recent presentation to my students and listed them below. God wants us to resolve conflict by being kind, understanding and patient with others. He does the same for us so we owe it to him to do the same.
Lets define conflict resolution first and then talk about easy steps to become better at resolving conflicts instead of escalating them by trying to run over everyone we disagree with. To resolve something is to come to an agreement, to communicate a resolution or come to an impasse about a topic of discussion. You may define it however you want, but we all need to learn to resolve and not escalate.
1- Do not become offended by what others say to you so easily. Breathe and think about your response before getting all up in your feelings.
2- Do not attack using any sentence that begins with “you”. This is placing blame on the other person and will escalate the situation quickly because they may become defensive at that point.
3- Tell the other person how you feel in a way that does not place blame or degrade them.
4- Allow the other person the opportunity to express their feelings, explain what happened or tell you their side of the story. Remember, most of the drama in life comes from stress, anxiety, lack of sleep and anger issues.
5- When explaining your side, remain calm, cool and collected and use “I” statements which will show the person how you felt and not place blame with “you” comments.
6- Pay attention to all the non-verbal communication. How is the person reacting to you, stay back and give them space in case they attack you. Watch for emotions in their eyes and know when to stop talking.
7- Learn to walk away if you cannot agree or get your way. We all have an opinion and that is what it is an opinion. It is what you think, feel, see or hear, but may not be what they saw, thought or felt.
8- Do not make assumptions or assume the other person is trying to hurt you on purpose. Do not let emotional baggage from your past destroy your future relationships.
9- Know when to apologize for your own behavior and forgive yourself or others when a conflict arises.
10- Choose your battles based on importance. Is it really worth all the stress, drama, anxiety and conflict that is coming to pursue it. If not, walk away, forgive and move on with life.
That woman is now in trouble with the law, facing charges of destruction of school property, attempted vehicular assaults’, resisting arrest and several other charges over what. An argument about money, hurt feelings, relationships and some other minor thing that in the grand scheme of things means nothing in life. It was certainly not worth the end result she got from it.
So I will close by saying that the bible tells us in Ephesians 4: 31-32; “to Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you”. The example I gave was full of bitterness, anger, and slander. By just getting away from one another, walking away or letting it go they could have been forgiving of one another.
James 1: 19-21, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls”.
Lord, show us how to be patient, kind and forgiving when conflict arises in our relationships and life. Help us to be resolute in these situations instead of angry, bitter and malcontent on hurting those that hurt us. Amen