1.8

TRANSFORMING CONFLICT NONVIOLENTLY

Embracing the inevitability of conflict by practicing nonviolent ways to wage it, manage it, and resolve it.

The key questions for this pillar are:

  • How can we embrace and prepare for the inevitability of conflict?
  • How can we resolves, wage, and manage conflicts nonviolently?

Conflict can spawn all sorts of negative outcomes – bullying, gangs, mental abuse, verbal harassment, social ostracization, etc. But conflict can also be an opportunity for positive outcomes – social change, understanding new perspectives, awareness of injustice, challenging assumptions, etc. Conflict, in and of itself, is not something to be avoided or prevented, necessarily. Rather, it is an unavoidable aspect of life and human relationships that if managed, waged or resolved in a particular way can actually be the source of needed growth and change.

There are numerous examples of individuals, programs, and organizations that seek to transform conflicts nonviolently – be they peer mediation programs, dialogue groups, conflict resolution trainings, restorative justice practices, nonviolent social movements, etc. Educators committed to building peaceable communities learn from these examples, gain inspiration from their methods and actions, and incorporate these skills into their own work.

CeaseFire is one such organization.  The trailer below is for the award winning documentary, The Interrupters, which “tells the moving and surprising stories of three Violence Interrupters who try to protect their Chicago communities from the violence they once employed….They believe that the spread of violence mimics the spread of infectious diseases, and so the treatment should be similar: go after the most infected, and stop the infection at its source. The singular mission of the “Violence Interrupters” — who have credibility on the streets because of their own personal histories — is to intervene in conflicts before they explode into violence (The Interrupters).”

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Reflection Question: What is one example of a conflict of which you have been a part that led to a positive outcome? How was that conflict waged, managed, or resolved so that it allowed for such an outcome?

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11 thoughts on “1.8

  1. I have a very close friend who I spend a lot of time with, which inevitably leads to fights when he doesn’t do as I expect him to or I don’t fulfill his expectations. Our initial reaction is to ignore the issue and our hurt feelings so we don’t cause each other more pain. Lately though, I have made a bigger effort not to express what is bothering me but asking him if something is bothering him. This is much more constructive as it confronts him from a position of openness. Inevitably he’ll give me a chance to express what’s bothering me and we end up feeling renewed in our relationship.

  2. Maria Schneider
    Although I’m sure that I have been a part of a conflict that has resolved positively, I cannot think of one at the moment. Currently, however I am the leader of a student group that is going through some problems. The small group of women that I lead has a lot of strong personalities of which not all of them agree–infact they disagree more often than not. Right now I have been in the middle of a lot of conversations, rants, etc that I am trying to resolve. I am using dialogue and reflection to move past these disagreements and I hope that we can overcome them together as a group.

  3. Ki’tay: As a native Chicagoan, the documentary we watched hit home and reminded me of a conflict I experienced while in high school. I was facilitating a debate round during a summer debate camp and we were discussing gangs. Randomly and intensely, a student pushed another student and pulled out a pen to stab him. After I split them up, my initial reaction was to “punish” them by sending them to the principal’s office. Yet, I decided to ask the student and have the students in the entire classroom discuss why gangs were such a sensitive issue and what does that mean for their daily life. In the end, we resolved the conflict by simply letting the student know and realize that he wasn’t alone and that violence is also a part of our everyday lives. However, we stressed that more violence wouldn’t solve the issue, but rather discussion such as the one we had just experienced.

  4. With my girlfriend Meghan we have tried very hard to have an honest and open relationship. This has led to many peaceful resolutions on differing opinions. We make it a point to each discuss our side of the issue and together come to some compromising resolution. We have never had a fight in over a year by using this technique. We squabble all the time but for serious disagreements we discuss them, take the time to explain where we are coming from so we understand the other’s stance, and then decide together what to do. I feel like this is the healthiest relationship I have ever been in and it’s really been a priority for both of us to continue to build on these resolution skills.

  5. I have to second what my fellow teachers have said. Working in the particular environment of Southeast DC, there are many similarities to the Interrupters video. There are conflicts within the community that I was seeing on the screen in the video. I did not grow up in such an environment, so my words do not have the same sort of gravitas as those of the people in the video, but I feel like relationships can have the power.

    I have noticed that students recognize when teachers care and are not going to be run off in the face of conflict. Many times my students will try to get under my skin or write me off as someone who can’t understand – but the way I manage the conflict is to find a positive and show that student that nothing is going to change my desire for them to better themselves and enrich my life by doing so.

    I know this isn’t a description of an intense crisis intervention, but this is very much in keeping with my philosophy of education and social change. Real change takes time and is based on relationships of honesty and trust. I’ve seen how much difference a semester and a year can make, but it is still a work in progress.

    Also, Go Knights, Sarah. Go Knights.

  6. Beth Jimerson. I’ve worked in a lot of inner city schools around the country and had to deal with conflict on a daily basis. I worked on preventing conflict by doing a lot of the things we have talked about and learned so far. I tried to create a safe environment for my students by starting every day in a circle talking about positive things that had happened that day so far and what positive things they were looking forward to. At the beginning of class I shared my expectations of their behavior during the activities we would be doing end of class we shared how we thought we fulfilled these expectations and what areas of improvement there were. I put up a behavior rubric every day that they could see throughout the day and refer back to when people were off task.

  7. Leah Thompson

    One evening I was having an ordinary conversation with my brother, until some comments were made that I found very offensive, and the commonplace conversation turned into a heated debate. We each began raising our voices, asserting our opinions, and using “evidence” to support why we each believed we were correct. We both felt under attack, and continued to hurl hurtful comments at one another. It was that moment when I realized I was hurting someone I cared about, that I made the effort to quit the name calling, lower my voice, and ask, “Can you explain to me why you feel this way and why it bothers you that I feel differently? And “How can we work together to better understand one another?” We had to manage the conflict by taking a step back, resolving our emotions, and collecting our thoughts to share with one another. We resolved the conflict with an open dialogue that allowed us each to understand one another’s perspective, while attaining the notion that we may never agree but we should always respect one another.

  8. Daniel Knoll: Freshman year I told my mother I wanted to join a Fraternity. The way I presented the decision to her was very abrupt and she reacted negatively. It led to a short shouting match and ultimately I didn’t join. My sophomore year I decided to join a different fraternity, and instead of just dropping the decision on my mother, I presented the benefits and explained what I was looking for and why it was personally important to me. I did not just tell my mother what I was doing, I had a conversation with her. Instead of arguing, she agreed and it was a great moment for both of us to solve a ‘problem’ together.

  9. Teaching at Thurgood Marshall Middle School for the past three years has definitely been a conflict that I’ve been involved with. As we go into our third year as a Turnaround School, we are still struggling to change the reputation that we have in the community. We are still working to get our parents more involved and still working to get our most difficult students engaged in a positive way. However, when I look at where we are now and where we started, we have more families attending events, and we have built up mentoring programs and community outreach organizations for some of our students. It is definitely still a huge challenge, but one that myself and my colleagues are still enthusiastic about undertaking.

  10. I consider my time at Ballou as a “conflict of which I have been a part.” It is not all bad, there is a lot of positivity and growth. Yet, there is this undercurrent of “why? for what? what’s the point?” that drags on my students and at times me as well. The positive outcomes I can point to now are 1. my own perspective continues to change and expand and 2. students who continue to push through one year to the next to reach their short term goal of graduating high school. The best reason I can think of that has allowed each of these positive outcomes is that I show up every day ready to work because I believe I’m helping to give my students options to experience success.

  11. My alma mater’s employment policy—based on longstanding traditions—disallowed Resident Directors (RDs) from living on campus with same-sex partners. Living on campus was a necessary part of the job meaning applicants with same-sex partners were not hired because of sexual orientation/commitment. I challenged this policy by working with existing networks on the campus and utilizing experts.

    To gather information I researched the Human Resources policy of the school, spoke with university policy makers, and consulted faculty members who worked on similar issues. I learned that the school allowed for same-sex partner benefits in the form of insurance, tuition reduction, etc but this did not extend to housing. I organized a group of university designated student leaders and drafted a petition letter outlining concerns and recommendations. I worked with Communication Studies faculty to draft the letter in a way that created a positive communication climate and did not alienate any party I worked directly with university officials to convince students not to protest on campus but to negotiate a win-win situation. I was able to garner campus-wide support from students, faculty, and administrators. As a result the policy was overturned by the university President.

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