Conflict. It’s kind of scary word.
Like it or not, it’s something we all deal with on a daily basis. On one hand conflict can handcuff us and put us on the defensive and lead to a divisiveness that is counterproductive to progress. On the other hand conflict can challenge us, make us reevaluate our stance and perhaps look at the world a different way. It really depends.
Ultimately, it comes down to whether or not you trust the intentions of the other person or not.
I’m on the playground a lot. I do it by choice because I find I can head off a lot of problems before they get big. A large part of my time outside is helping kids negotiate conflict. In almost every instance conflict arises from miscommunication. Too often kids don’t trust, take the time, or even have the ability to take the other person’s perspective. When I work with kids to understand each other’s intentions and share what each person was thinking we almost always can solve the problem.
“Why would ‘soandso’ do that?”
“Hmmm…let’s start with that.”
When I am dealing with adults the scenario is almost the same. When people are upset it almost always due to lack of communication, or lack of trust. In my experience we are all on the same team. We all want what is best for the students that we work with. Sometimes, the needs are different. A parent is concerned with their child, and a teacher with all the students. A teacher is concerned about their classroom, but I am concerned with all the classrooms. But at their root they are the same – we all want a high functioning school where all kids can be successful. When in a situation of conflict, I trust the intention of the person I am with…even if they are upset. It doesn’t matter if it is a parent or teacher, I know they have the best interest of the children at the heart of the matter. When I trust first, it allows me to listen and see what the issue is. When I listen and understand the issue we can move forward.
If we reframe conflict as a challenge or a problem to be solved we change the paradigm. Conflict often arises because of a difference of opinion, so when we trust the intention of the people we differ with we can get new insight and see the world through a different lens and perhaps stumble upon some new learning. When we take the time to listen and really hear someone else’s perspective before offering our own is how we build trust and integrity.