There is a risk of conflict anytime two or more people interact. A critical component of maintaining relationships is being able to avoid conflicts and resolve conflict situations when they occur. Failure to resolve conflict results in a myriad of social problems. Students may develop a reputation as people who can't get along with others, or aren't good friends.
Students who are effective at conflict resolution are able to use verbal and non-verbal strategies to communicate well with others. This allows them to resolve social problems without resorting to verbal or physical aggression.
Here are some strategies to help students develop their skills in conflict resolution.
- Teach students to recognize the internal and external signs that often precede conflicts. For example, feelings of anger that develop before he/she loses his temper, certain events that often end in conflict, non-verbal cues that others give off that indicate their anger or aggression, etc.
- Help a student identify typical events that frustrate or anger her. Teach the student alternative ways to deal with these frustrating events, e.g., walking away, asking for help, etc. Give her the chance to practice these alternatives through role-play.
- Examine how other students are behaving towards a student who has problems with conflict resolution. Be sure others are not being confrontational, and triggering the student's negative interactions.
- Set up your classroom environment in ways that minimize the opportunity for students to be physically or verbally aggressive with others (e.g., carefully monitoring seating arrangements, maintaining your mobility in the room, etc.).
- Provide students with "best bet" steps to resolve a conflict once it has begun. Steps may include:
- Inhibit your first response
- Search for alternative backup strategies
- Select and deploy a best bet non-verbal response
- Select and deploy a best bet verbal response
- Monitor the effectiveness of best-bet strategies
- Recruit others into the process of resolution as a positive act
- Give students example phrases to use to resolve problems (e.g., "Let's work it out," "I can compromise on this.").
- Clearly define what students are doing wrong (e.g., swearing) and what they should do instead (e.g., communicate their feelings clearly, for example, by saying, "This is frustrating to me.").
- Promote post-conflict reflection among students by helping them analyze (or take apart) a conflict. Help students realize that the search for "Who did what to whom" is often futile, and that accusations and scapegoating are not effective. Encourage students to do an objective analysis by creating a description of alternatives they might have chosen (speaking or behaving in different ways, making different decisions at critical junctures, etc.).