Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Posture of Conflict

When I speak of posture here, I mean more than a straight back and squared shoulders. Posture is the communication of an attitude or frame of mind, especially when one is involved in a conflict. Crossed arms communicate an unwillingness to listen and a resolve to have one's way. Rolling eyes communicates a disdain or disrespect for another person or for the other person's ideas. A loud sigh communicates a weariness with what another person may be saying, a message that one no longer has the patience for the other person or his ideas. In other words, posture is body language and we should make no mistake in recognizing that people hear what we say with our body sometimes better than what we say with words. For this reason, when one finds himself entering a conflict, he should be cautious and deliberate in his posture, if his intent is to find resolution.

As an educator, the conflicts I find myself involved with generally place me in the position of the professional, the one in charge. Consequently, my posture must be that of the professional, and I must assume a professional demeanor at all times. Without a doubt, there are times when I, too, want to scream profanities and yell louder than the other people, but screaming and yelling have never really resolved any conflicts. Certainly, there are conflicts that end when one party yells and screams, but this is not because the screamer has proved his point and won the conflict. It is more so because the other party has determined that the screamer has lost all contact with reality and that no resolution is possible; therefore, there is no reason to continue pursuing resolution. So, in spite of our desire to yell and scream, we have to remain calm and be the voice of reason.

A proper professional posture will communicate an openness and allow one to listen carefully to what is being said during the conflict. Through careful listening and through maintaining a calm, clear voice, the professional is then able to paraphrase what he has heard. This communicates to the person who is angry that he is indeed being heard, which often goes a long way toward resolving the conflict. But it all begins with the proper posture, with the proper body language.

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