When you put 73 high school girls together 24/7 there is bound to be some conflict. In a lot of ways conflict feels somewhat unavoidable so as a school we have worked toward finding healthy and constructive ways to resolve conflict. Through research and trial and error, Uhuru Academy has found some steps we encourage students to take when they find themselves in the middle of a conflict.
First, we encourage them to feel what they are feeling and feel it in full. It is so, so important to first take yourself out of the situation and go to a place where you can recognize and reflect on your feelings. Some students find themselves wanting to stuff their feelings down, but it truly just creates more tension- internally and externally. It is important for one to understand that they, and no one else, are in control of their own emotions. After taking that ownership the student should take the time to find the cause of what they’re feeling and decide how they want to respond to their emotions, thinking of a rational decision.
Secondly, it is important to adequately express your feelings. Using the formula “When you _________ + I feel _________” gives the other person insight into what exactly they did and how it made you feel, and it helps you own your own feelings. Being able to express what you are feeling calmly and articulately will allow the person time to process and hear what you’re saying without triggering their defenses with harsh or blaming words. Probably the most important part of having a conversation with the person is allowing them to communicate their side of the story. So many times things are miscommunicated or misinterpreted, so listening to the other side can clear up preconceived notions. Having a two-sided conversation is essential to solving conflict.
After having a conversation and believing that your feelings were heard, it is time to move on. The ability to accept responsibility for your mistakes and accept that the other person is human and will make mistakes is a part of growing up and maturing. Once you have come to that acceptance, you need to decide not to hold the conflict against that person (even if they never gave you an apology or owned up to their mistakes). Forgiveness and not holding on to bitterness will ease one’s internal tension. Walking away from a conflict knowing you have adequately expressed your emotions and tried, to the best of your ability, to resolve the conflict, should create space for you to be able to move on and let it go.
There are many different ineffective methods of conflict resolution commonly used by students. Let’s look at why they don’t work. One of these is “sleeping it off.” Many students deal with conflict by going to sleep. This may help you cool down and allow you to follow the next steps in resolution, but it is not a reset button or an end solution. You may forget about the situation while asleep, but once you wake up it still needs to be dealt with. Another ineffective strategy commonly used is “keeping quiet.” It is important not to react with anger or abusive language in the face of conflict, but keeping quiet and never discussing the problem is not a virtue, instead it just creates more tension in the future. Many times people, in general, will try to mind read or tell themselves a story. If you have not attempted to clarify why the person did the thing they did, said the thing they said, or reacted in the way they reacted- do not play a guessing game. This only leads to you believing something that may not even be true or labeling someone inaccurately. This “keeping quiet” also creates tension and leads to more conflict in the future. Lastly, make sure you don’t give your feelings or emotions power over you. When people act out of pure and irrational emotion that only leads to an irrational dispute. Remember you are always in control of your feelings, they do not control you.
Ultimately, resolving conflict comes down to respect. You need to respect others, acknowledging that they are human and have and will continue to make mistakes. Respect that they have feelings too and that their feelings are valid. Give others the benefit of the doubt and listen to their side of the story. Also, it is important to respect yourself. Respect that your feelings are valid too and deserve to be heard and recognized. Respect yourself enough to desire to not live in conflict with others but strive, to the best of your ability, to live in peace with everyone.
Conflicts are a part of life, but you can decide how you respond to and deal with conflict.
Written By Guest Blogger: Emma Griffith, Counseling Intern Extraordinaire.
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