What is Conflict Management?
Conflict management is defined as the ability to understand and properly maneuver disagreements with others. These periods of conflict can occur in the classroom, workplace, or throughout life in general, but it is important that students have an understanding of how to handle those situations and deal with them effectively.
Why are these Skills Important for Middle and High School Students?
Students in middle school and high school are susceptible to conflict at a much higher rate than most adults. These students are at an age where hormones are set on “high” the majority of the time! Because of this fact, students are more likely to argue with others, sense or create disagreements, or simply cause conflict due to a difference of opinion and so much more. Students at this age greatly benefit from the implementation of conflict management strategies as they will help students more effectively communicate and get along with their peers.
How to Approach Conflict Management for Middle Schoolers
It is highly likely that middle school students struggle the most in dealing with situations of conflict. As mentioned before, emotions are heightened due to puberty and the surge of hormones that occur throughout that process. For the health and well-being of every student in the classroom, it is beneficial to teach students ways in which to manage conflict. Below are a few ways to approach conflict management for middle school students.
In an effort to stop conflict from escalating, it may be helpful to teach students to avoid becoming angry. Anger clouds one’s judgement; thus, it affects a student’s ability to think clearly and assess a situation for what it truly is.
Students should shift their attention from the conflict at hand to a more positive situation or emotion. Teachers may prompt students to think about a favorite memory or experience. Students should think on those things for a brief moment before returning thoughts to their problem. Then, students may revisit the conflict they are faced with. This approach resets the brain and helps students think more clearly about the negative situation taking place.
To understand conflict, students should put their conflict or problem in perspective to see the bigger picture. Students can complete a problem comparison activity to view their conflict in a new light. Students should follow these critical steps:
- Define the problem.
- How difficult is the problem?
- Are there problems out there that are much more difficult or serious?
For each step, students may be encouraged to reflect upon their thoughts and write things down on paper. Through this activity, students should realize that the conflict they are faced with (whether it is due to someone hurting their feelings or taking something that belongs to them) is minor in comparison to other problems. Additionally, this activity may help to instill feelings of respect and thankfulness for what students have in relation to others.
Gain a New Perspective
Like the problem comparison activity, students should think about the problem from a different point of view. In this case, students should place themselves in the shoes of the other person in the conflict. Students should ponder what is causing them to act in the way they are, what is motivating their behavior, and why. If students begin to view the problem from someone else’s point of view, the conflict may begin to resolve on its own as students realize the bigger picture. Students may also realize that their own actions were the cause of the conflict to begin with, or they may discern that others involved are truly at fault and show empathy towards them after determining the root cause of their behavior.
Role Playing with Conflict
Middle school students may benefit from acting out situations of conflict in order to better deal with it in real life scenarios. Teachers could present problems and have students role play the problem for the class. As the role playing proceeds, the teacher and/or students may provide feedback to help the conflict resolve appropriately.
How to Approach Conflict Management for High Schoolers
The majority of students in high school can more easily talk through conflict as a means to work things out as opposed to students in middle school; however, the approaches to conflict mentioned in reference to middle school students may also be beneficial to some high school students. Teachers should be encouraged to expand upon the approaches recommended for middle school students to make them more appropriate or useful for high school. In addition to those strategies, let’s identify a few ways with which conflict management may be introduced and fostered for high school students.
Walk It Out
One of the simplest strategies that helps students deal with conflict is to remove themselves from the situation. Teachers can allow a student to take a walk in order to think more clearly. This time allows the student to cool off, calm down, and reassess the situation at hand. Then, when ready, the student can face the conflict at hand with a more level-headed mindset.
If we are being honest, conflict is a very common part of life, but that does not necessarily have to be a bad thing. Teachers can teach conflict management in a way that students learn to value the opinions of others, not shying away from them. This does not mean that students should simply accept or agree with another’s opinion, but it does present students with a chance to understand where the conflict may possibly stem from. This type of approach provides an opportunity for students to learn from others as they attempt to navigate conflict. Conflict is inevitable throughout life, so it is wise to encourage students to not fear conflict but welcome it. Students should embrace it, conquer it quickly, and move forward with an improved or expanded mindset.
As teachers may ask students in middle school to place themselves in another’s shoes, high schoolers will benefit from identifying differences in order to understand another’s reasoning or point of view. Students should analyze why the other person is acting in the manner in which they are. Students may ask questions like: Are they going through a hard time? Is someone in their family going through a hard time? Did they just experience a hard event? These questions will help students analyze the motives behind the conflict and help them to not take conflict so personally as it may not entirely be their fault.