Conflict Resolution

These lessons are structured into eight levels covering different aspects of conflict resolution.

Lessons include videos, reading, and interactive activities.

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Analyzing Conflict

Write out your definition of conflict.

"Conflict is a struggle or tension through which the parties involved perceive a threat to their needs, interests or concerns." How is our definition the same and/or different from your definition?

conflict

Watch the Conflict Introduction video

Various factors can lead to conflict, which derive from different sources of conflict.

Source of Conflict: Resources

Money, time, land, labor and material things.

Your sister takes your clothes without asking you first.

Source of Conflict: Information

Not having sufficient and/or the same information, different ways of perceiving information, and attributing different levels of importance to the same information.

Arguing over rumors started by other people.

 

Source of Conflict: Emotional and Psychological Factors

“Bad Day” reactions or mental/psychological conditions may affect actions and attitudes.

Jared’s girlfriend just dumped him and he yells at his mom when she asks how school was.

 

Source of Conflict: Values

Culture, beliefs, religion.

A student makes fun of another student at school for fasting.

 

Source of Conflict: Relationships and Roles

Friends, family, couples, co-workers, neighbors. Conflict can arise when people don’t fulfill how another sees their role.

Teresa is jealous that her best friend Nicole is going to the movies with another girl and didn’t invite her.

Source of Conflict: Power and Structure

Who has access to power and/or resources, and who has the authority to make decisions. May relate to issues of justice.

A student is upset that his/her side of the story is not being heard when in trouble for getting in an argument with a teacher.

 

Which source of conflict is the most difficult to notice? Why?

  • Resources
  • Information
  • Values
  • Relationship and Roles
  • Power and Structure
  • Emotional and Psychological Factors

Identify the source of conflict in the video below

  • Resources
  • Information
  • Values
  • Relationships and Roles
  • Power and Structure
  • Emotional and Psychological Factors

Identify the source of conflict in the video below

  • Relationship & Roles
  • Values
  • Information
  • Power & Structure
  • Resources
  • Emotional and Psychological Factors

Identify the source of conflict in the video below

  • Relationship & Roles
  • Values
  • Information
  • Power & Structure
  • Resources
  • Emotional & Psychological Factors

Identify the source of conflict in the video below

  • Relationship & Roles
  • Values
  • Information
  • Power & Structure
  • Resources
  • Emotional & Psychological Factors

Identify the source of conflict in the video below

  • Relationship & Roles
  • Values
  • Information
  • Power & Structure
  • Resources
  • Emotional and Psychological Factors

Identify the source of conflict in the video below

  • Relationship & Roles
  • Values
  • Information
  • Power & Structure
  • Resources
  • Emotional and Psychological Factors

Identify the source of conflict in the video below

  • Relationships and roles
  • Values
  • Information
  • Power and Structure
  • Resources
  • Emotional and Psychological Factors

Write about an actual conflict you have experienced or witnessed at school. Identify the sources of conflict in the situation. Choose which source might be easiest to resolve first.

Feel free to also post this in our forum so others can learn from you!

Conflict Spiral/Cycle

Conflict Spiral

As a conflict occurs, many of the ways people communicate and act end up escalating it. Making demands and judgments, placing blame, and physically hurting one another are actions that cause people to respond in similar ways, often even more destructively. The result is that the conflict spirals out of control, unless someone takes active steps to resolve the conflict in a positive way. 

Explore the Conflict Spiral diagram below to learn more about how conflict escalates.

Identify the stages of the conflict spiral in the next scenario and arrange the scenario in chronological order.

Sarah and Rick are dating. Sarah has been friends with Mario since they were kids because their mothers are close friends; therefore, they spent a lot of time during their childhood together. They are also classmates in Science.

  • Mario is not very good at Science and he asked Sarah to be his partner for the final science project. Rick does not like the amount of time Sarah is spending with Mario and sometimes feels jealous when he catches them laughing and having a good time together.
  • Sarah’s and Mario’s science project is due on Monday and they are behind. They agree to spend Saturday morning working on the project. Rick had bought tickets to watch a movie that Saturday afternoon at 7:30 pm. Rick is almost at the Library to pick Sarah up when he calls her. Sarah tells him she is not in the library because she and Mario went to the store for some supplies for the project so Mario is going to give her a ride to the movies. Sarah arrives half an hour late to the movie and tells Rick that Mario's mom asked him to pick up his little sister on the way which made them late. Rick gets angry with Sarah but even angrier with Mario. Rick thinks Mario was trying to spend as much time as possible with Sarah because he is secretly in love with her.
  • Rick asks Sarah not to talk to Mario anymore, but Sarah explains they are project partners and that Mario has been her friend since childhood, nothing more. Rick and Sarah solve their differences, but Rick is still mad at Mario. He believes all the arguing with Sarah is Mario's fault.
  • Rick starts talking trash about Mario to his friends and starts telling everyone that Mario is trying to break up his relationship with Sarah.
  • On Monday while Sarah and Mario are celebrating (laughing and hugging) the success of their project and their A+, Rick approaches them, pushes Mario and demands that he stop touching his girlfriend. He is so mad that he even tells them: “get a room!”
  • Rick leaves and Sarah starts to cry. Mario looks for Rick to tell him that he only considers Sarah a good friend. Rick will not listen to Mario and starts calling him names. Mario leaves.
  • Sarah and Rick break up. Sarah continues her friendship with Mario. One day Rick can not stand seeing them together anymore and starts fighting with Mario in the cafeteria.

The goal is to turn a conflict into a cycle rather than a spiral.

Drag and drop the stages of conflict into the arrows where you think they belong.

  • Calm
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Harmful Action or Language

Watch this video illustrating the Conflict Cycle.

Identify where the stages of the conflict cycle occurred in the next scenario.

  • calm
  • agitation
  • harmful action
  • escalation
  • conflict resolution
  • recovery

Self Awareness

Comfort with Conflict

Not all conflicts have the same intensity, and the intensity may vary among participants in a single conflict.
  • Some conflicts elicit mild discomfort, while others produce severe emotional distress.
  • Our level of comfort with specific conflicts depends on various factors including our personalities, our past experiences, our cultures, etc.
  • Different people may have a different comfort level with the same conflict.  

Comfort with Conflict

Write about a conflict you have witnessed or have been a party to when you were uncomfortable.

Identify what made you uncomfortable and describe your feelings.

Watch this video introducing self awareness

Please watch this scenario and tell us about your feelings and reactions.

Please watch this scenario and tell us about your feelings and reactions.

Please watch this scenario and tell us about your feelings and reactions

Please watch this scenario and tell us about your feelings and reactions.

Know Yourself

It is also important to be self-aware of one's own identity characteristics, perceptions and biases, especially when involved in a conflict:
  • When part of a person's identity is challenged or threatened, they often respond by re-enforcing their allegiance to that part of their identity. Knowing who you are and what informs your perceptions helps you to understand why you get upset or stressed and to figure out how to calm down and address the issue appropriately.

  • It is important to recognize how you respond to others; be sensitive to their attitudes, emotions and feelings, without trying to interpret them in terms of your perceptions. Perceptions are based on our experiences and help us make sense of the world, but they can also be superficial and most likely do not tell us the complete story.

  • Not being aware of why we think, feel or act in certain ways may lead us to stereotype, discriminate against, or misjudge situations or other people. When we know what it is that we identify with, we can be aware of our own biases and how we might react to situations that test what is important to us. It helps us to understand why we think what we think, why we feel what we feel, and why we act how we act. 

  • It is also important to be self-aware of how we are feeling in the moment, and how that may affect how we react to any particular situation.

Think of a time when you have had part of your identity challenged. How did you respond?

Can you recall a time when your perceptions did not match the whole story? What happened in that situation?

How do you think others perceive you in these situations?

How self-aware are you during heated situations? How often do you check in with yourself during these situations to see if you are being realistic and fair?

Self awareness is a constant exercise. Reflective journal writing and mindfulness are ways to continue building this self awareness.

Underlying Needs

Watch this newscast on underlying needs.

 

Nine Basic Human Needs

  • Love (affection, support, and appreciation)
  • Safety (physical and emotional)
  • Understanding (empathy, learning, and respect)
  • Sustenance (basic physical needs for food, air, water, shelter, and physical health)
  • Creativity (self-expression, work, and contribution)
  • Community (belonging, connection, and acceptance)

  • Meaning (purpose, beliefs, faith, and hope)

  • Rest/Play/Relaxation (sleep, joy, and renewal)
  • Autonomy (self-governance, choice, freedom)

Underlying Needs: The Cause and Solution for Conflicts

It is really important to understand needs in order to skillfully resolve conflicts in ways that are satisfying to all the people involved. "Needs," also known as “underlying needs” or “basic human needs,” refers to those things that allow us to survive and thrive as human beings. All human beings, regardless of where they are from, how they were raised, or what they believe in, have the same basic human needs.

The basis of all conflict is when underlying needs are not met

Identifying and addressing the needs of all parties are the keys to resolving a conflict. Listening to the other person can help you identify and empathize with their needs. When you can identify needs, this helps you to really understand the other person and their point of view in a conflict. By truly understanding the point of view of the other person, you can focus on collaborating in order to meet each others' needs to resolve the conflict. But remember, it is always important to clarify with a person what needs they are trying to meet.

As we are trying to satisfy our needs, we take specific actions to meet them. These actions are called strategies.

Example: For sustenance, I feed myself through the food I buy with the paycheck I get from working. Alternatively, I could steal food from a store to feed myself. (This is also a strategy, even though this particular approach may prevent others from meeting their needs. Remember, a strategy is simply the action taken to meet the need. In resolving conflicts, it is important to choose strategies that will meet everyone’s needs.)

Identifying needs is not always an easy thing to do. What people say in a conflict often reflects their positions, which indicate what they think should happen. Positions are certain strategies that people get stuck in, thinking they provide the only way to solve the issue. 

Positions are often presented as demands, accusations, and judgments, and the positions held by the people involved in a conflict are often at odds with one another.

Example: You want to go to a party and have a curfew of 1 am, while your mom says you better be home by 10:30 pm. You want to spend time with your friends and stay out as long as they do because you need to relax and be accepted by your community. Your mom wants you to come home because she knows you need to get adequate rest and be safe. She thinks this is the appropriate time because she feels it is the time a good parent would choose and she needs to get meaning through providing good parenting.

Once needs are identified, though, creative solutions may be found which can meet the needs of all the people involved.

In order to bridge positions and needs, identify people's interests in order to come up with strategies that work for everyone involved. Interests are broader desires that are expressions of needs. By highlighting the interests involved one can come up with strategies that allow all parties to meet their needs.

Example: One girl may take the basketball that another girl has been playing with for over an hour. The position of the girl whose ball is taken might be "Give me back my ball right now!" while the position of the other girl may be "Why should I? My friends and I want to play!" The needs of both may be those of play and autonomy. The interests of the girl already playing may be, "I'm really stressed out and playing basketball helps me think things through," while the interests of the one who took the ball may be, "I want to hang out with my friends and play basketball together." Some strategies that meet everyone's needs may be playing basketball together, or coming up with a time when the person already playing stops so the others can have their turn. 

Match the conflict situation to the main underlying need involved.

Jake arrived at school early for two weeks to help prepare the stage scenery and lights for the annual school musical. He worked late in the evenings after the cast went home and he helped at all of the shows. On the final night of the show the cast gave out flowers and made special thanks announcements to those who worked hard to make the show possible, but since most people never witnessed Jake at work, he wasn’t thanked publicly. When the drama teacher asked Jake if he would help again next year, Jake said ‘no’ before refusing to help disassemble the set. 

  • Love (affection, support, and appreciation)
  • Safety (physical and emotional)
  • Understanding (empathy, learning, and respect)
  • Sustenance (basic physical needs for food, air, water, shelter, and physical health)
  • Creativity (self-expression, work, and contribution)
  • Community (belonging, connection, acceptance)
  • Meaning (purpose, beliefs, faith, and hope)
  • Autonomy (self-governance, choice, freedom)
  • Rest/Play/Relaxation (sleep, joy, and renewal)

Match the conflict situation to the main underlying need involved.

Miya and Joel were working together on a science project. They agreed to split up the work equally. When they met to combine their parts of the project, Miya was angered to find that Joel’s half didn’t include any of the scientific fact information their teacher required. She thought it looked more like an art project than a science project. Joel, on the other hand, was angered to find that Miya only included text of scientific facts and made no effort to add artistry or color to the project. Both have refused to continue working together to complete the project. 

  • Love (affection, support, and appreciation)
  • Safety (physical and emotional)
  • Understanding (empathy, learning, and respect)
  • Sustenance (basic physical needs for food, air, water, shelter, and physical health)
  • Creativity (self-expression, work, and contribution)
  • Community (belonging, connection, acceptance)
  • Meaning (purpose, beliefs, faith, and hope)
  • Autonomy (self-governance, choice, freedom)
  • Rest/Play/Relaxation (sleep, joy, and renewal)

Match the conflict situation to the main underlying need involved.

Cleo was about to sit down with friends at a school potluck event. She had just filled her plate with food and was eager to eat when her teacher, Mr.Thompson, stopped by the table to visit. As he began to leave, Mr.Thompson took a cookie from Cleo’s plate without her permission and ate it. Cleo was so angry that she verbally abused Mr.Thompson in front of everyone at the picnic. 

  • Love (affection, support, and appreciation)
  • Safety (physical and emotional)
  • Understanding (empathy, learning, and respect)
  • Sustenance (basic physical needs for food, air, water, shelter, and physical health)
  • Creativity (self-expression, work, and contribution)
  • Community (belonging, connection, acceptance)
  • Meaning (purpose, beliefs, faith, and hope)
  • Autonomy (self-governance, choice, freedom)
  • Rest/Play/Relaxation (sleep, joy, and renewal)

Match the conflict situation to the main underlying need involved.

Hannah and Lauren have been dating for three months, but lately they’ve had an ongoing conflict regarding Hannah’s family. Whenever Hannah visited Lauren, they both went inside Lauren’s home and interacted with her family. When the girls went to Hannah’s house, she would make excuses to prevent Lauren from entering the home, or she would only allow Lauren inside when her parents weren’t around. Hannah’s parents are friendly and supportive of gay couples, but religiously they oppose equal rights in marriage for gay couples. Lauren feels that was a sign that Hannah’s parents are disapproving of their relationship, while Hannah feels that her parents are supportive of the relationship, just not the eventual idea of marriage. Lauren refuses to go over to Hannah’s house until she feels confident that Hannah’s parents are equally as supportive of their relationship as Lauren’s parents are.

  • Love (affection, support, and appreciation)
  • Safety (physical and emotional)
  • Understanding (empathy, learning, and respect)
  • Sustenance (basic physical needs for food, air, water, shelter, and physical health)
  • Creativity (self-expression, work, and contribution)
  • Community (belonging, connection, acceptance)
  • Meaning (purpose, beliefs, faith, and hope)
  • Autonomy (self-governance, choice, freedom)
  • Rest/Play/Relaxation (sleep, joy, and renewal)

Match the conflict situation to the main underlying need involved.

Jose wanted to watch his boyfriend, Thomas, play in the football game, but his sister’s volleyball game was the same night. Jose’s family pressured him to put family first and go to the volleyball game instead of the football game. Thomas wanted Jose to come to the football game since Jose was unable to attend the last one. Afraid that both options might hurt somebody’s feelings, Jose decided to stay home and did not attend either game. Jose’s decision left both his sister and boyfriend upset with him and neither will respond to his messages. 

  • Love (affection, support, and appreciation)
  • Safety (physical and emotional)
  • Understanding (empathy, learning, and respect)
  • Sustenance (basic physical needs for food, air, water, shelter, and physical health)
  • Creativity (self-expression, work, and contribution)
  • Community (belonging, connection, acceptance)
  • Meaning (purpose, beliefs, faith, and hope)
  • Autonomy (self-governance, choice, freedom)
  • Rest/Play/Relaxation (sleep, joy, and renewal)

Match the conflict situation to the main underlying need involved.

Peter moved to the United States from Brazil when he was in 6th grade. He’s still in the process of learning English, and usually won’t talk to anyone at school because he doesn’t want to embarrass himself. However, Peter is very good at chess and plays constantly with the Chess Club members. After tournaments, the club members would go out for burgers together, but Peter was never invited. One day Peter tried to confront the members about their decision not to invite him, but when one of the members teased Peter’s broken English, Peter got so embarrassed and mad that he punched the member.

  • Love (affection, support, and appreciation)
  • Safety (physical and emotional)
  • Understanding (empathy, learning, and respect)
  • Sustenance (basic physical needs for food, air, water, shelter, and physical health)
  • Creativity (self-expression, work, and contribution)
  • Community (belonging, connection, acceptance)
  • Meaning (purpose, beliefs, faith, and hope)
  • Autonomy (self-governance, choice, freedom)
  • Rest/Play/Relaxation (sleep, joy, and renewal)

Match the conflict situation to the main underlying need involved.

Deena and Charlie are best friends who carpool to and from school. On Fridays, the two always spend the afternoon together once school gets out. Lately, Deena has requested that they go out to parties, shows, or other social activities. Charlie, however, has been more exhausted than usual by the end of the week, and requests that they stay indoors and rent a movie or order pizza. Unable to compromise, Deena drives home without Charlie one Friday, leaving him stranded at school, when he refuses to go with Deena to a party that night. 

  • Love (affection, support, and appreciation)
  • Safety (physical and emotional)
  • Understanding (empathy, learning, and respect)
  • Sustenance (basic physical needs for food, air, water, shelter, and physical health)
  • Creativity (self-expression, work, and contribution)
  • Community (belonging, connection, acceptance)
  • Meaning (purpose, beliefs, faith, and hope)
  • Autonomy (self-governance, choice, freedom)
  • Rest/Play/Relaxation (sleep, joy, and renewal)

Match the conflict situation to the main underlying need involved.

Martin has trouble being in crowded places. They make him feel claustrophobic, nervous, and anxious, so he tends to avoid them. At school, Martin waits until the halls are clear after passing period before walking to his next class. His friends used to wait with him and walk together, as an added support, but recently his friends received so many tardy slips for arriving late to class that they’re no longer willing to wait with Martin. His friends’ decision made Martin feel angry and abandoned, so he stopped coming to school altogether

  • Love (affection, support, and appreciation)
  • Safety (physical and emotional)
  • Understanding (empathy, learning, and respect)
  • Sustenance (basic physical needs for food, air, water, shelter, and physical health)
  • Creativity (self-expression, work, and contribution)
  • Community (belonging, connection, acceptance)
  • Meaning (purpose, beliefs, faith, and hope)
  • Autonomy (self-governance, choice, freedom)
  • Rest/Play/Relaxation (sleep, joy, and renewal)

Match the conflict situation to the main underlying need involved.

Nathan’s friends were aggravated when he repeatedly turned down their offers to hang out, choosing instead to take on extra shifts at his job. His friends confronted Nathan and accused him of being boring and selfish, since Nathan’s family is wealthy and his friends didn’t think he needed more money. Nathan explained that he actually finds his job enjoyable, and it makes him feel useful, not boring. Nathan’s friends, and sometimes even his parents, urged him to spend more time away from his job, but the more they pressured Nathan, the more hours he scheduled at work, until his friends disrupted him so much at work that his boss fired him.

  • Love (affection, support, and appreciation)
  • Safety (physical and emotional)
  • Understanding (empathy, learning, and respect)
  • Sustenance (basic physical needs for food, air, water, shelter, and physical health)
  • Creativity (self-expression, work, and contribution)
  • Community (belonging, connection, acceptance)
  • Meaning (purpose, beliefs, faith, and hope)
  • Autonomy (self-governance, choice, freedom)
  • Rest/Play/Relaxation (sleep, joy, and renewal)

Iceberg Model

Watch this video explaining the Iceberg Model

Write out a full conflict scenario, real or imaginary.

Note the positions, needs, interests, and strategies that are part of this conflict.

Techniques to Address Underlying Interests and Needs

Gina and Matt are seniors at different high schools, but they are going to attend each other’s proms as a couple. They are having a dispute over who is responsible for paying for the tickets. Gina says Matt should pay for both because he has more money and she needs to save hers to spend money on two dresses. Matt says Gina should pay for both because he has to pay for two tux rentals and her school’s prom tickets cost more money than his school’s. Over the past week the dispute has escalated, currently resulting in Matt refusing to discuss the issue, while Gina refuses to discuss anything else until it’s resolved. Underlying interests and needs involved:

  • Sustenance - they don't want to spend more money than they have
  • Understanding - different types of communication, they each want their perspectives to be understood
  • Autonomy - they want to be able to make their own decisions
  • Community - they want to be with one another, as well as their school communities at the dances

Tackle the Easiest Issue First

EXPLANATION: Address the least complicated issue first. Gina and Matt refuse to communicate in ways that work for both of them, leaving the mediation at a standstill. No progress can be made until they agree to participate equally.

EXAMPLE: Mediators individually ask Gina and Matt to explain why they aren’t communicating equally. Matt says he is tired of arguing about the problem and doesn’t think Gina listens to his perspective whenever it comes up. Gina says Matt ignores her attempts to discuss the problem in depth, which makes her feel like he doesn’t care that it’s important to her. Next, mediators explain the importance of equal communication and listening during a mediation, then they proceed to develop agreed-upon terms, using both Gina and Matt’s input, that they feel will allow them to be heard fairly and equally. 

Derive Strategies to Meet Needs

EXPLANATION: Include everyone in a brainstorming session to come up with ways to resolve the conflict and leave with a lasting and satisfying solution. All ideas are equally valid, no matter what. Work together to narrow down ideas to ones that would best meet the underlying needs of everyone involved.

EXAMPLE: Mediators facilitate brainstorming of ideas from both Matt and Gina. Matt contributes the ideas that Gina either pays for all the tickets, or, at least, the tickets for her school. Gina contributes the ideas that Matt pays for all the tickets, or that they split the cost of the tickets and she only buys one dress instead of two. 

Separate the People from the Problem

EXPLANATION: Be careful not to perceive the people themselves as the problem. If you feel yourself beginning to see an individual as the problem, remind yourself to think of the unmet needs and interests that caused the problem, rather than the people in the conflict.

EXAMPLE: Matt begins to roll his eyes, shake his head, and physically reacts negatively to anything Gina says during the mediation. While he doesn’t interject verbally, his body language shows that he disagrees with Gina and is agitated by the situation. A Mediator begins to feel that Matt might be the problem, rather than a conflict over prom tickets. Catching themself, the Mediator quickly focuses on Matt’s needs for understanding and expression that are not being met, which may be contributing to his behavior. The Mediator offers Matt a chance to voice his disagreement with Gina, thereby allowing him to express himself verbally and, in turn, relax physically. 

Take a Forward-Looking Approach

EXPLANATION: Too often in conflicts, disputants focus on blaming each other for events that occurred in the past. This is unproductive in the search for a resolution. Instead, take a future-oriented approach to help look past the blame and seek workable solutions. One way to do this is by asking “How can we….” questions rather than “Why did you...” questions.

EXAMPLE:

Don’t: WHY Questions

  • “Gina, why did you refuse to pay for all of the tickets?”
  • “Matt, why did you ignore the issue when Gina tried to bring it up before?”

Do: HOW Questions

  • “Gina, how can we develop a fair way to pay for the tickets?”
  • “Matt, how can we make this a more comfortable conversation for you to be a part of?” 

Separate the Facts from the Feelings

EXPLANATION: During conflict, people often believe their feelings and values should be counted as fact, but since we all perceive reality in different ways, “facts” can become skewed. Feelings can be helpful clues in understanding a person’s underlying interests or needs, but should be separated from the “facts” of the conflict.

EXAMPLE: Gina’s eyes begin to water when she expresses concern that Matt doesn’t want to go with her to prom at all. The Mediator asks Matt if he does want to go to prom with Gina. Matt confirms his interest in going to both proms, but states his concern over the cost of tickets. While Gina is expressing valid feelings of insecurity over her need for acceptance that are important to take notice of, the Mediator works to remind and re-establish the fact that Matt does want to be Gina’s date, and the conflict is solely over the cost of the tickets and the needs for autonomy and continuing ability to support oneself, not the interest in attending.

Think of a conflict that you currently face at school or with a friend, sibling, etc. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What are the sources of the conflict?
  2. What are the positions of the people in the conflict? What is your position(s)? What is the other side’s position(s)?
  3. What are the underlying interests and needs of the people in the conflict? What are your interests and needs? The other side’s interests and needs?
  4. What are some strategies that can help you and the other side meet the above interests and needs?

Emotions and Regulation Strategies

It's important to be able to identify and name your emotions in order to have insight into your reactions to conflict.

Think about how you feel when you are involved in conflicts.

How do these feelings make you want to react? How do these reactions affect how the conflict might play out?

Practicing emotional regulation is essential in order to productively resolve conflicts.

  • In order to come up with constructive ways of dealing with stress and conflict, we need to understand our own emotional responses and manage anger that we feel.
  • Channeling our emotions in ways that don’t escalate conflicts can help us to deal with them so that the likelihood of them turning into destructive conflicts diminishes.

     

  • Using constructive strategies for regulating our own emotions can help us to better deal with conflicts.

How do you manage your stress and angry feelings?

The brain is where emotions and regulation occur.

  • Our brain stem controls our basic needs for survival, including the fight/flight/freeze response. When we are in a situation of tension or conflict, we get the instinct to fight, run away or freeze. The brain stem is connected to the limbic system, or emotional center of the brain, and so when we are in these situations, our emotions also flood our brains, including the cerebral cortex, or logical center.
  • Sometimes the flight/fight/freeze response is necessary, like when you are about to cross the street and a car comes zooming at you, but other times, we can regulate ourselves and our emotions in order to connect with our cerebral cortex and react more productively.

Watch these bees illustrate how emotions, brains, and conflict interact

 

The next time you are angry, see if you can figure out what other emotions you are feeling.

  • Sometimes, including when involved in a conflict, it is easier to feel mad than to feel other emotions. You might get mad at your friend for talking behind your back, but you are probably feeling hurt as well.
  • Emotions are temporary, even though sometimes we think they are going to last forever.  The belief that emotions will last forever can make us act in ways we would not otherwise (for example: committing an act of violence when we are angry).  Because they are temporary, we can do things to regulate ourselves.
  • We cannot control our emotions – we need to accept them – but we can control our behaviors and how we act on our emotions. Rather than instinctively acting on our emotions, we can think of constructive ways to act on them.
  • When we name our feelings, it helps us to calm down and acknowledge our emotions.
  • Emotions are indicators for whether a need is being satisfied or not. If you are happy, it is likely that you are satisfying some need or a group of needs. If you are sad, angry, or frustrated, it is likely that you are NOT satisfying some need or group of needs. You can also use the emotions others are feeling as clues to help determine what interests and needs may or may not be met for them at the moment.

Think about the last time you were mad. What do you think your underlying emotion was?

Think about the last time you felt that an intense emotion or feeling would last forever. What actions, positive or negative, did you take because of those feelings?

Think of the last time you were very happy or very upset. Identify which needs were met or unmet and name your subsequent emotions.

Managing Emotions

Even though you generally have choices in the way you handle conflicts, sometimes you might not be aware of those choices because you’re too angry or upset. Stop and think each time you have a conflict, and see if there’s a different way you might handle it in order to meet both your interests and needs and those of the other people involved. This does not necessarily mean you should let an issue go that is causing a conflict. You can be assertive! What are the differences between being assertive, passive, aggressive and passive-aggressive?
  • Assertive: self-assured, positive and confident. Person addresses issues in a non-hostile way.
  • Passive: submissive and/or avoiding. Person does not address issues, even if they are harmful.
  • Aggressive: inclined to behave in an actively hostile way. Person may attack others instead of calmly addressing issues.
  • Passive-aggressive: Person uses hostility or negativity to address issues in an indirect way.

What are some events, people or situations that trigger you?

What emotions do you experience as a result of these triggers?

How do these emotions tend to affect your actions or behaviors?

What are the negative consequences for you or others affected by these actions or behaviors?

What are other, more constructive actions or behaviors?

What would be the most likely result for you if you acted or behaved in this way instead?

5 Ways to De-Stress After School

 

When you are upset, frustrated, stressed, or angry and need help regulating your emotions, who are the people you can turn to for support?

Approaches to Conflict

Take the Modified Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Questionnaire

Column 1. “No Way”

Check your total for Column 1

A high score in a column would be an 8 or 9, a medium score a 5, 6, or 7, and a low score 3 or 4.

Those with the highest number in column 1 have a tendency to avoid when in a conflict: These types prefer not to deal with the problem at hand, and/or they don’t feel the issues in dispute or the relationships involved are important.

Column 2. “Your Way”

Check your total for Column 2

A high score in a column would be an 8 or 9, a medium score a 5, 6, or 7, and a low score 3 or 4.

Those with the highest number in 2 have a tendency to accommodate, and/or give in (it can be perceived as losing): These types prefer to “give in” rather than get confrontational about anything. This approach can also be used by people who care about the relationships with the persons involved in the situation, but don’t really care about the issue.

Column 3. “My Way”

Check your total for Column 3

A high score in a column would be an 8 or 9, a medium score a 5, 6, or 7, and a low score 3 or 4.

Those with the highest number in 3 have a tendency to control/compete/persist (it can be perceived as winning): These types see everything as a challenge that they want to dominate. In some situations, it may be a good idea to use this approach (i.e., when your basic rights are being violated), but, in some instances, it may be damaging.

Column 4. “Half Way”

Check your total for Column 4

A high score in a column would be an 8 or 9, a medium score a 5, 6, or 7, and a low score 3 or 4.

Those with the highest number in 4 have a tendency to compromise: If the issue and relationship are important and you have limited time or resources, this may be the best approach (your friend really wants to hang out all day, but you have to study, so you stop by for only a short time after you study).

Column 5. “Our Way”

Check your total for Column 5

A high score in a column would be an 8 or 9, a medium score a 5, 6, or 7, and a low score 3 or 4.

Those with the highest number in 5 have a tendency to collaborate: These types prefer to derive creative strategies to resolve conflicts because they would like to preserve relationships and achieve their goals as well. This approach usually leads to win-win solutions. 

This graph is a tool to help analyze what is the most appropriate approach to use in a given circumstance.


Different approaches might work best depending upon how important the relationship and the issue are in the situation.

It is often necessary to use more than one approach in a single conflict. For instance, if either you or the person you are in conflict with are too angry to productively talk with one another, you may need to avoid the conflict until you both have cooled down and are able to compromise or collaborate.

Communication Skills

Active Listening

Watch this video to learn about active listening.

Open-Ended Questions

In order to productively resolve conflicts, it is important not just to listen, but to also find out as much information as you can about the conflict you are involved in. One way to do this is to ask open-ended questions. Open-ended questions allow people to provide fuller answers than close-ended questions, which result in yes/no or one-word answers.

For example:

  • What happened?
  • How did this situation affect you?
  • What concerns you?
  • What kind of solution works for you?
  • How can this relationship be fixed?

Versus:

  • Do you feel upset?
  • Are you concerned?
  • Do you want to be friends again?
  • Would you like her to apologize?

How Questions

Especially when brainstorming for solutions, “How” questions help the people in conflict with one another take a forward-looking, or future-oriented, approach. “Why” questions tend to focus on a past orientation, and don’t help disputants come up with as many ideas for solutions.

For example: "How can you solve this conflict with one another?" versus, "Why aren't you able to get along with one another?"

Body Language

Our body language lets people know if we are listening to them or not, and can also send messages to others about how we are feeling. For instance, if we are looking around while someone is speaking, they may think we are bored and not listening. It is especially important as a mediator to use calm body language that does not indicate that we favor one side over the other.

Communication is mostly nonverbal! For instance, walking up to someone in an intimidating way might make it harder for you to constructively resolve a conflict you have with him or her. For this reason, it is important for conflict resolvers to pay attention to their own non-verbal cues and those of others. The following chart provides some examples of body language cues.

Listening Blocks

In some circumstances, there are also things we can say that – especially during a conflict – will cut people off or make them think we don’t really want to listen to them. Even when we are trying to listen with our best intentions, we sometimes do not respond in ways that make people feel heard.

For instance, people often provide unsolicited advice.

  • “Here is what you need to do…”
  • “What about trying this…”
  • “It is not as bad as you think…”

People give advice to others because at times it can be helpful. However, if a person hasn’t asked for it, it may come across as an annoying cut-off to the conversation.

People also make judgments about others and the information they are sharing.

  • “You are overreacting to the situation…”
  • “You are too emotional. Deal with it!”
  • “You are such an idiot!”

No one likes to be negatively judged.

Similarly, asking questions in a judging way is not helpful:

  • “Umm … Did you really wear that?”
  • “Why did you go over there in the first place?”
  • “Are you sure you understand what is going on?”

Telling someone what you think is going on with him/her may make the person feel you don’t respect their self-awareness.

  • “Here is what is going on with you…”
  • “You’re just being insecure…”
  • “Your problem is that…”

People also dismiss the problems others are sharing with them because they want to cheer up the person, don’t care, don’t have the time, etc.

  • “Stop worrying. I’m sure you did a great job.”
  • “Relax! There is nothing you can do now. You have to let it go.”
  • “Who cares? Just forget it and move on.”

We want to make people feel better, but these minimizing statements might make a person feel cut-off if the matter is important to them. 

Active Listening Skills

When resolving conflicts, it is extremely important to use active listening skills, including:

  • Encouraging
    • Request more information by showing interest. The more information we can gather about a conflict, the more details we have about what really needs to be resolved in order to move forward.
      • “Tell me more about …”
      • “Why do you say …”
  • Clarifying
    • Understand a situation more clearly. It is important to make sure that everyone is on the same page on the big picture and specific details.
      • “What do you mean when you say …?”
      • “Can you explain in more detail?”
  • Restating
    • Check your understanding of what the other person is saying. This skill also helps for everyone to be on the same page.
      • “What I hear from you is …. Is that right?”
      • “So are you saying …?"
  • Reflecting
    • Check your understanding of what the other person is feeling. It is important to acknowledge the emotions involved in a conflict, as this acknowledgment allows people to feel heard and move forward.
      • “You seem to be upset / happy / etc.”
      • “It’s _____ to have that happen.”
  • Summarizing
    • Pull together the main points or the big picture of the conversation. This skill helps everyone to keep track of the whole situation and what suggestions are being made about the best way to move forward.
      • “What you’re saying seems to indicate …”
      • “What I’m hearing as the main points are …”
  • Validating or stressing the value of the person you are talking to whether or not you agree with their statements. Often, it is more important for people to feel heard than to get their way.
    • “I’m glad you talked with me about this.”
    • “I understand now why you feel that way.”

Here are some examples of how these skills might sound:

  • Encouraging: “Tell me more about why you think your teacher doesn’t like you.”
  • Clarifying: “How is your friend being hard on you?”
  • Restating: “So you’re upset that she borrowed your dress and then spilled on it.”
  • Reflecting: “You seem to be sad that you’re not spending as much time together.”
  • Summarizing: “You thought she had offered to share notes, and so you took notes when you thought it was your turn, and not the day you thought it was her turn. Now you don’t have notes for that day, and the test is coming up in a couple of days. Is that correct?”
  • Validating: “Thanks for being willing to share how this conflict is affecting you.”

Using these listening skills when resolving conflicts will lead you to mutually satisfying and lasting resolutions

Active Listening Quiz Scenario - Elizabeth's Grief

Diego’s friend, Elizabeth, has been acting oddly at school. Recently, she’s easily agitated, and less playful and energetic. Sometimes she seems normal, but often she claims to be too tired to participate in activities with their friends. Her friends are aware that Elizabeth’s grandmother, whom she was very close with, recently passed away, however, none of her friends know what to say to her about it so they don’t ever bring up the topic. Eventually, Diego, hoping to understand why she wasn’t acting herself, decided to sit down and talk to Elizabeth about what was going on.

Is this Active or Non-Active Listening?

Elizabeth: I’m angry and exhausted. It’s like my body aches. No matter how much I sleep, I feel tired.

Diego: Maybe you just need some coffee. Let’s get some coffee; you’ll feel better.

Elizabeth: I don’t think so. I get enough sleep. I think I just...it’s nice to be able to talk to you. Nobody wants to talk about it so it makes it harder to be around everyone, you know? Like I’m acting.

Diego: Just ignore them, they’re losers. You’re just having a tough week, that’s all. You should try crying, letting it all out. You’ll feel better.

Elizabeth: I don’t know. I don’t really feel like crying. I’m just tired of being alone all the time.

Diego: Try not to be negative; things will get better. 

  • Active Listening
  • Not Active Listening

Is this Active or Non-Active Listening?

Elizabeth: I’m angry and exhausted. It’s like my body aches. No matter how much I sleep, I feel tired.

Diego: You’ve got a lot going on right now; do you think it’s wearing you out physically?

Elizabeth: Yes, maybe. I get enough sleep though. I think I just...it’s nice to be able to talk to you. Nobody wants to talk about it so it makes it harder to be around everyone, you know? Like I’m acting.

Diego: Yeah, it must not be easy to be around people who’d prefer to ignore what’s going on with you.

Elizabeth: It is. It’s like nobody is okay with me just being sad, but I don’t want to be alone all the time so I have to act normal in order to be around our friends. Nobody can make it better, but that doesn’t mean they have to ignore it.

Diego: It seems like you’re exhausted with having to pretend like everything is normal. I’m sorry that you have had to deal with all of this alone. If talking about it helps the most, I’m here for you. 

  • Active Listening
  • Not Active Listening

Active Listening Quiz Scenario - (Not) Just Friends

Lewis and Evan are seniors in high school and have been dating for over a year. During an outing to a local carnival, the couple ran into the parents of an old childhood friend of Evan’s. The parents were very friendly and reminiscent of Evan as a child. Evan politely introduced the parents to Lewis; however, he introduced Lewis as his “good friend” instead of his boyfriend. Though Lewis went along with it in the moment, Evan’s introduction really upset him. On the walk home, Lewis attempted to talk to Evan about what happened. 

Is this Active or Non-Active Listening?

Lewis: Why did you introduce me as your “good friend” instead of your boyfriend when we ran into your friend’s parents earlier?

Evan: Sorry about that. It’s not a big deal. We’ll probably never see them again anyway.

Lewis: It’s a big deal to me. It makes me feel like I’m not an important part of your life. I always introduce you as my boyfriend, because that’s what you are to me: more than just a friend.

Evan: Okay, I get it. Next time I’ll say you’re my boyfriend.

Lewis: That’s not what I’m saying. It’s not just calling me your “boyfriend;” it’s what that stands for. It’s a bigger issue than that. I want us to be even.

Evan: Me too. I think we’re even. It’s really not that big of an issue; don’t worry about it. By tomorrow those people won’t even remember they ran into us. 

  • Active Listening
  • Not Active Listening

Is this Active or Non-Active Listening?

Lewis: Earlier, when we ran into your friend’s parents, why did you introduce me as your “good friend” instead of your boyfriend? They seemed nice; I don’t see why you couldn’t have been honest.

Evan: Sorry about that. I wasn’t trying to be dishonest, I just got nervous and said the wrong thing. Are you all right?

Lewis: Honestly, it makes me feel like I’m not an important part of your life when you introduce me as a friend. I always introduce you as my boyfriend, because that’s what you are to me: more than just a friend.

Evan: I understand. You are an important part of my life; I didn’t mean to make you feel less than that. It was an accident, but it doesn’t mean that our relationship isn’t important to me.

Lewis: Thanks; I just want to know that we’re equally invested. It’s not just a title to me; it’s what it stands for.

Evan: I agree, and I can tell this is really important to you so I’ll do my best to respect that in the future. You’re important to me and I don’t want you to feel like I’m afraid to show that. 

  • Active Listening
  • Not Active Listening

Is this good listening or bad listening?

  • Good Listening
  • Bad Listening

Is this good listening or bad listening?

  • Good Listening
  • Bad Listening

Is this good listening or bad listening?

  • Good Listening
  • Bad Listening

Is this good listening or bad listening?

  • Good Listening
  • Bad Listening

Is this good listening or bad listening?

  • Good Listening
  • Bad Listening

Is this good listening or bad listening?

  • Good Listening
  • Bad Listening

Observations vs. Judgments

Observations

  • Observations are what we can see with a camera and hear with an audio recorder without involving perceptions or assumptions. Observations describe what you actually see and hear. They do not evaluate.

Judgments

  • Judgments are evaluative and include perceptions, assumptions, and biases. They often involve a right vs. wrong dynamic (right vs. wrong way to do things, blame/counter-blame, offense/defense, etc.) .

Observations vs. Judgments

  • When we communicate using judgments, people get defensive, angry, and respond in similarly, if not more, intense ways, leading to a conflict spiral.
  • When we communicate using observations of the situation, ourselves and our needs, we can change the focus of the conversation from blaming the other person to the problem that we would like to solve. We can make observations about our own feelings because we know what we are feeling. 

Observation vs. Judgment Scenario: The Necklace

Michelle and Kayla are in the same homeroom class. Several days after Michelle’s favorite necklace went missing she noticed that Kayla was wearing an identical necklace in class. When Michelle confronted Kayla about it, Kayla assured Michelle it was not the same necklace. Convinced that Kayla was lying, Michelle reported the issue to the Vice Principal, who then called the two girls into her office to discuss the conflict. 

Is this a Judgment or Observation?

Vice Principal (VP): Michelle, what makes you think Kayla’s necklace is yours?

Michelle: I can just tell that it’s mine because of how it looks. And, I mean, I don’t think she could afford something like that.

Kayla: No wonder nobody wants to be your friend; you’re a spoiled brat.

VP: Ladies, let’s focus on the issue please. Kayla, is there any way you can prove the necklace is yours?

Kayla: Yes, but it won’t matter because she’s going to accuse me of lying anyway. Clearly she just wants attention.

Michelle: And you just want my necklace.

  • Observation
  • Judgment

Is this a Judgment or Observation?

Vice Principal (VP): Michelle, what makes you think the necklace that Kayla is wearing belongs to you?

Michelle: It has the same scratch marks on the side that my necklace does and I noticed that she was wearing it three days after mine went missing.

Kayla: This necklace was a gift from my parents for my birthday. I’ve worn it before, but I don’t wear it every day.

VP: Kayla. Is there any way that you can prove the necklace is yours?

Kayla: We can call my parents and they can confirm it. They gave it to me several months ago, before Michelle says her necklace went missing.

Michelle: If Kayla’s parents say she’s telling the truth then I guess it’s possible we have the same necklace.

  • Observation
  • Judgment

Observation vs. Judgement Scenario: The Glance

In Spanish class, Vince sits in the front row next to the pencil sharpener. During a test, Ian, who sits in the back row in class, gets up to use the pencil sharpener. While he sharpens, Ian begins to glance around the classroom. Vince looks up and sees that Ian is looking down at his desk. Vince quickly assumes Ian is trying to cheat off of Vince’s test, while Ian assumes Vince is glaring judgmentally. 

Is this a Judgement or Observation?

Vince: What are you looking at?

Ian: Nothing.

Vince: Stop cheating off my test. I can see you. 

Ian: Why would I cheat off you? You’re probably barely passing this class.

Vince: Go back to your desk and fall asleep, or whatever you do when you’re not participating.

Ian: You got it, dude. Let me know if you need help spelling your name or anything. 

  • Observation
  • Judgment

Is this a Judgement or Observation?

Vince: Are you looking at my test?

Ian: No, sorry. Just spacing out.

Vince: Oh, I was worried you were trying to cheat.

Ian: Nope. Just sharpening my pencil, killing time.

Vince: Okay. It’s just distracting.

Ian: My bad. Heading back to my desk.

  • Observation
  • Judgment

Communication without Judgement

Making requests not demands: Ask for what you NEED and WANT in a respectful manner.

  • "Would you please explain what you mean by that? I don’t understand.”

Silence: Rather than responding with high emotion, don’t say anything. This helps cool-off the situation.

“We” and “I” rather than “You” language: Emphasize that you’d like to work TOGETHER to resolve the problem. Talk about yourself: What you NEED, WANT, FEEL and THINK!

  • “How can we fix this situation?”
  • “I’m upset when the work isn’t done on time because I need support with turning in this group project by the due date.”

Focus on the problem, not the person: Use OBSERVATIONS rather than JUDGMENTS.

  • “It is difficult for us to work together when there is a lot of misinformation going around. Maybe we can talk about the situation and figure out what is really going on.”

Neutralizing: Don’t NAME-CALL, BLAME, JUDGE or CHARACTERIZE. Don’t use ALWAYS or NEVER.

  • “At times, it seems like I’m not getting the full story about the issue.”

Reframing: NEUTRALIZE negative language when RESTATING, REFLECTING or SUMMARIZING.

  • “I can see that you are very upset because I didn’t pay you back when I said I would.”

Reality Check: Be POSITIVE about resolving the conflict by stating the BENEFITS of resolving it.

  • “If we resolve this problem now, we can avoid punishment and move on with our day."

Suggest Solutions: When faced with a problem, rather than focusing on what’s wrong, offer SOLUTIONS.

  • “I know that we have different points of view, so let’s talk so we can understand each other more.”

Remain open to ideas: Tell the other person that you want to LISTEN to his/her point of view.

  • “What ideas do you have to make this situation better?”

Practice writing out an I-Message around a conflict you've experienced.

The formula is I feel ____________ when _____________ because ___________. Would you (or) can we ________________?

Make sure to put a real emotion after I feel, and try to steer clear of using You messages after when.  If you do have to use you, make the statement observational rather than judgmental.

Here are some examples:

  • I feel frustrated when our group work is turned in late because I need to get a good grade in this class. Would you make sure in the future to let me know if you are struggling with the work so I can help you?
  • I feel disappointed when a plan to meet up isn't honored because I want to be able to trust my friends. Would you let me know next time as soon as you do if your plans change?
  • I feel enraged when I'm called names because I want to be respected. Would you pull me aside and talk things out if you have a problem with me? 

Negotiation

Watch the following video introducing negotiation

Things to Think About when Negotiating

Negotiation sounds like a big word, but it is something that we do every day. Whenever we want something to happen and we need other people’s help, we must negotiate. The stakes can get even higher if we are in conflict with someone.

The most constructive negotiations take into consideration the interests and needs of all people involved, as well as the best and worst possible outcomes. For these reasons, it is always important to prepare for a negotiation. Make sure you gather as much information as you can about the situation before negotiating.

  • Think through both your own interests and needs and what might be the interests and needs of the other person or people involved.
    • People are more willing to enter into negotiations if they see how the process can be beneficial for them.
    • Agreements that are lopsided may end up falling apart, harming relationships and leaving people in worse situations than they were in before.
  • Try to come to the negotiation with some solutions in mind that could meet everyone’s interests and needs, while being open to other suggestions that come up during the negotiation.

Keep in mind that negotiation is a process to resolve conflict and create a better situation than the one you are currently in with others. For this reason, it is advantageous to negotiate only if you think that you will be better off after the talks.

  • Think in terms of both the issue/goal and the relationship between the people involved in the conflict.
  • Think about the best and worst possible outcomes before beginning the process. This includes thinking about the best and worst possible alternatives to negotiation.

Negotiation Tips

Think of negotiation like putting together a puzzle. Look at the situation piece by piece, tackle the easiest issues first, and then move on to the harder issues. Ask yourself, “What do I want?” before you negotiate! Tackle the easiest issues first, and then tackle the harder issues after.

  • What is your best possible outcome?
  • Your worst?
  • What is their best possible outcome?
  • Their worst?

Of course, there are lots of conflicts that occur in the moment, and we don't necessarily have a lot of time to prepare for negotiating a solution to them. However, keeping these questions in mind (especially those regarding interests and needs) and staying open to the ideas of others will help you brainstorm strategies to come to a successful resolution.

Think through a conflict you are facing. How would you would approach the negotiation?

Power

Sources of Power

Read About the Ten Sources of Power.

Sources of Power Video

Sources of Power Quiz - The Fight

Read the scenario and decipher which source of power each character represents. 

The Fight

Martin and Brad have been called into the Vice Principal’s office after a fight reportedly broke out between them at lunch. Brad’s best friend Neil asked to be in the meeting to provide a witness account of the incident. The school nurse was asked to join, since she was the faculty member that first reported the incident and assessed the boys’ injuries.

Vice Principal: Gentlemen, you all know that we don’t tolerate fighting of any kind at this school. Does somebody want to tell me exactly what happened? Brad, would you like to start?

Brad: I’d be more than happy to start. By the way, you look very nice today. Did you get a haircut?

Vice Principal: Yes, I did, actually. Thank you, Brad, that’s very sweet of you. Please, let’s stay on topic, though.

Brad: Of course. Well, it’s really very simple. I was just having lunch with my friends, then all of a sudden Martin walked over and hit me. I told him to stop but he didn’t. I didn’t mean to kick him; I was just trying to get away. It was in self defense.

Neil: It’s true; I saw it. Martin just acted crazy, like he lost it.

Vice Principal: Martin, is that true? Do you want to tell us what happened?

Martin: It’s completely, utterly, false. I did not hit Brad for no reason. He provoked me until I had no choice. The truth is that he cheated off my test in English and the teacher blamed me for it because Brad said I cheated off him, as if he could really score that high on an English exam. We should all be impressed he can even spell his name after all the head injuries he’s suffered from football. I wasn’t even going to say anything, or whatever, but at lunch he kept calling me a cheater in front of everyone. I shouldn’t have hit him, I know that, but he did hit me back, and he kicked me really hard.

Vice Principal: Mrs. Nancy, can you confirm the injuries Martin and Brad have suffered?

Nurse: Brad was hit fairly hard in the jaw. He’ll be sore, but nothing is broken. Martin was kicked in the shin, which is already starting to bruise. He was also hit near his cheekbone, most likely from a fist punch, judging by the swelling.

Vice Principal: Brad, is that true? That sort of violence doesn’t sound like you.

Brad: I never accused Martin of cheating; I’d never do that. I guess we had similar answers on the test, and Martin was sitting nearby, so you know, he may have tried to look at my paper, but it’s none of my business.

Martin: Oh, please. What Shakespearian play was the test on, if you’re such an academic?

Neil: Why does that matter? He doesn’t have to answer that. That was so long ago, who would even remember that?

Martin: We took the test three hours ago. If he can name the play, I’ll drop the cheating charges.

Vice Principal: Nobody is being charged with anything. Brad, can you name the play the test was on?

Brad: Certainly. It was...Romeo and Juliet.

Martin: Hah! Are you kidding? We’ve been reading Macbeth for the past month.

Neil: Shut up!

Vice Principal: Okay, let’s calm down. Brad, you need to retake that test during free period tomorrow. Maybe Martin would be willing to help you study.

Martin: Over my dead body.

Neil: What’s your problem? Chill out.

Vice Principal: Neil, that’s enough.

Brad: How much longer do you think this will take? I have practice in ten minutes.

Vice Principal: Oh, I didn’t notice the time. You can all go in a minute, but I can’t let fighting go without consequence, so you’ll both have in school suspension for three days.

Brad: But if I have suspension Coach won’t let me play!

Martin: I can’t have suspension for three days; I’ve got debate team meetings. We have a big tournament next week!

Vice Principal: I’m sorry, that’s just the way it has to be. I hope you’ve both learned your lesson.

  • Vice Principal
    Sanction power (power to keep others from their needs)
  • Nurse
    Expert/Informational power (power in knowledge)
  • Martin
    Nuisance power (power in ability to annoy others)
  • Brad
    Personal power (power from having a charismatic personality)
  • Neil
    Associational power (power from being friends with people who have power)

Sources of Power Quiz - Gym Clothes

Read the scenario and decipher which source of power each character represents. 

Gym Clothes

Sycamore Middle School requires students to wear approved gym clothes with the school’s logo on them in order to get full credit in P.E. class. However, in order to get gym clothes, students must purchase them for $40. While many students’ families are easily able to pay for the clothes, some students’ families struggle to accumulate the money, or can’t afford to spare the cost. In response to complaints, the Student Council President will facilitate a meeting between the Principal and two students presenting opposing sides of the issue. Superintendent Reynolds listens over a conference phone.

Student Council President: Principal Davis, this is Marley and Cliff. They have opposing views on the gym clothes issue and are here to share their opinions. Marley does not agree with the current system, while Cliff is in favor of keeping the current system.

Principal Davis: Alright, thank you both for coming. Marley, what are your thoughts on the issue?

Marley: I know the school wants us to wear a uniform for gym; I understand why. It’s not about the gym clothes, it’s about how much they cost. Some families can’t afford to spend $40 on gym clothes. That’s a lot for some families, but it’s mandatory, so we don’t have a choice.

Principal Davis: I see. Cliff, what are your thoughts on this?

Cliff: I don’t have a problem with the gym clothes either, but I don’t think it would be fair if some families were allowed to pay less money for the same clothes that other families have to pay the full price for. I know it’s not super cheap, but it’s just $40; I mean, it isn’t super expensive.

Marley: Maybe not for lots of families, but for some families $40 is a lot of money. What are those families supposed to do? There’s no discount or support for them. Then kids from those families get bad grades because they don’t have the right clothes.

Student Council President: Cliff, do you have an idea for how we can make sure everyone has gym clothes, but that doesn’t involve a change in cost?

Cliff: I don’t know, maybe people could donate their old gym clothes and the students who can’t afford new ones could get the donated pairs for free.

Student Council President: Marley, what do you think about that idea?

Marley: That sounds kind of gross and insulting to me. I think anyone who can’t afford new clothes would be teased for wearing old clothes with somebody else’s name crossed out on them.

Principal Davis: You both make good points. Superintendent Reynolds, how difficult would it be to make it possible for certain families to pay less for gym clothes and have the budget make up the difference?

Superintendent Reynolds: Unfortunately, that isn’t possible. While we’d love to do that, the current rules and budget won’t allow for us to use money in that way. Somehow, all the gym clothes must be paid for by the student body. Maybe there’s another way?

Principal Davis: What if the PTA or student council had a fundraiser and allowed families to make contributions toward the school’s payment for gym clothes? That way, the families who have more money they’re willing to spend have the opportunity to make a donation, and the families who are in need of a discount can receive one. The school won’t lose money, and everyone has gym clothes. What do you think?

Cliff: I guess if people want to contribute more in order to help other families, that’s fair.

Marley: Sounds good to me.

  • Marley
    Moral Power
  • Cliff
    Resource Power (power by having valuables, wealth)
  • Student Council President
    Formal Authority Power (power by position/job)
  • Superintendent Reynolds
    Habitual Power
  • Principal Davis
    Procedural Power (power by having control over decision-making process)

Kinds of Power

Exploitative Power (power upon): Use of physical violence or force, or the implied intent to use it

Manipulative Power (power over): Playing with people’s wants and needs

Competitive Power (power against): Competing with others of equal power

Nutritive or Nutrient Power (power for): Using influence to empower others in a positive way

Collaborative or Coalitional Power (power with): Combining power with others to increase everyone’s power

Kinds of Power - Scenario 1

  • Exploitative Power (power upon): Use of physical violence or force, or the implied intent to use it
  • Manipulative Power (power over): Playing with people’s wants and needs
  • Nutritive or Nutrient Power (power for): Using influence to empower others in a positive way
  • Collaborative or Coalitional Power (power with): Combining one’s power with other’s to increase everyone’s power
  • Competitive Power (power against): Competing with others of equal power

Kinds of Power - Scenario 2

  • Exploitative Power (power upon): Use of physical violence or force, or the implied intent to use it
  • Manipulative Power (power over): Playing with people’s wants and needs
  • Nutritive or Nutrient Power (power for): Using influence to empower others in a positive way
  • Collaborative or Coalitional Power (power with): Combining one’s power with other’s to increase everyone’s power
  • Competitive Power (power against): Competing with others of equal power

Kinds of Power - Scenario 3

  • Exploitative Power (power upon): Use of physical violence or force, or the implied intent to use it
  • Manipulative Power (power over): Playing with people’s wants and needs
  • Nutritive or Nutrient Power (power for): Using influence to empower others in a positive way
  • Collaborative or Coalitional Power (power with): Combining one’s power with other’s to increase everyone’s power
  • Competitive Power (power against): Competing with others of equal power

Kinds of Power - Scenario 4

  • Exploitative Power (power upon): Use of physical violence or force, or the implied intent to use it
  • Manipulative Power (power over): Playing with people’s wants and needs
  • Nutritive or Nutrient Power (power for): Using influence to empower others in a positive way
  • Collaborative or Coalitional Power (power with): Combining one’s power with other’s to increase everyone’s power
  • Competitive Power (power against): Competing with others of equal power

Kinds of Power - Scenario 5

  • Exploitative Power (power upon): Use of physical violence or force, or the implied intent to use it
  • Manipulative Power (power over): Playing with people’s wants and needs
  • Nutritive or Nutrient Power (power for): Using influence to empower others in a positive way
  • Collaborative or Coalitional Power (power with): Combining one’s power with other’s to increase everyone’s power
  • Competitive Power (power against): Competing with others of equal power

Write out how at least three sources and two kinds of power play out in your school.

Brainstorm ideas for using or balancing power in order to resolve these issues.

Develop a plan using SMART goals:
  • S: Specific - an exact idea of what will happen
  • M: Measurable - a quantification of the desired change
  • A: Achievable - a realistic expectation for change
  • R: Results-focused - focused on change occurring
  • T: Time-bound - the amount of time it will likely take