Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ten Truths about Conflict Resolution

Conflict resolution is a skill that everyone needs. It is also a skill that can always be improved. However, colleges and universities do not teach conflict resolution to new teachers. New teachers are woefully ill-prepared to talk with an angry parent or to resolve any but the simplest conflict. Because conflict resolution skills are considered soft skills, many educators and many people in general underestimate the need to develop these skills, scoff at the suggestion that they need to develop these skills, and reject all efforts to improve these skills. These same people most often exhibit the exact opposite skills that would result in conflict resolution--entering into debates and arguments when they should be looking for resoluton.

I suggest that there are Ten Truths about Conflict Resolution and that if a person begins by accepting these truths, then that person will move a giant step toward becoming a skilled in conflict resolution.

The Ten Truths about Conflict Resolution are:

1. It is better to talk face-to-face than to talk over the phone. It is better to talk on the phone than to communicate through an email. It is better to communicate through an email than not to communicate at all.
2. When communicating through email, keep the message short and stick to the facts.
3. Meeting with people face-to-face not only helps to resolve conflict but also helps to develop relationships important in resolving future conflicts.
4. Parents have a right to be upset, angry, or frustrated. They want what is best for their children and love their kids. Let an angry parent talk. Let the parent express the emotions for a few minutes. Not only will the parent unburden himself of the frustration, but you will also be able to identify the problem.
5. Find the facts. When an angry parent calls, the problem may be wrapped in many layers of emotion. Listen carefully for the real problem.
6. You are the professional, the calm voice in the meeting. Remain calm and listen carefully. Identify the issue and when you have the opportunity to speak, restate the problem as you understand it. This will let the other person know that you are listening.
7. Take notes. It will help you to stay focused.
8. Be proactive. If a teacher has had a problem with a student during the day, the teacher should call the parent at the earliest convenience. The parent is more likely to believe the first story that he/she hears, and if that happens to be the story that the student tells, it will be more difficult for the teacher to convince the parent otherwise.
9. Invite the parent or other person to provide a solution. Ask the other person what he or she would like to see happen to resolve the issue. This does not mean that what that person proposes will be the solution, but it again communicates that you are willing to listen and to work toward a resolution that both can agree to.
10. It is not about winning. It is about resolving the issue.

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