Living up to Our Own Values -- Conflict Resolution at KBOO

Upholding KBOO’s values of peace, justice, democracy, human rights, environmentalism, multiculturalism, freedom of expression, and social change, the community is engaging in a series of skill building sessions, followed by an open forum for volunteers and staff to share their experiences, thoughts and desires for our community. Some refreshments provided, attendees are encouraged to also bring a contribution to a potluck following the training session.
 
We come from many places, express ourselves differently, hold different beliefs, but at KBOO, all participants create community together. Learning from each other and growing together is an essential part of “the KBOO experience”. It is essential to listen to one another and be receptive to what you hear. We are creating exciting, meaningful radio and community, all here, together, based on KBOO’s stated values—and for this alone, each one of us deserves the respect of all others. If we spend our time uplifting our co-created community, we will be uplifted in turn.
 
With so many passionate, caring and expressive individuals actively participating within an organization, conflicts will occur. In fact, they should occur, as conflicts illuminate areas that we need to look at, and learn from, within ourselves, and the community as a whole.
 
Most people have negative feelings about conflicts, and many try to avoid them—but this doesn’t really help in the long run. Conflicts that are left unresolved often fester and become fertile ground for feeling bad about another person, yourself, and / or transferred and generalized to the whole organization. However, compassionately and justly addressing conflicts can help transform us as individuals, and the organization as a whole.
 
Understanding the overall dynamics of conflict can help us address them more constructively.
 

Understanding Conflicts

Conflict arises when people disagree about something that is important to both / all parties. Each conflict is unique because it is entirely dependant on the dynamics of the parties involved at that time. Each person brings his or her history, and “hot buttons” or “pet peeves” that affect the conflict.
 
When conflict occurs, everyone needs to feel recognized as an individual, and respected as a human being.
 
When these needs are not met, things can escalate very quickly.
 
Because each person involved in the conflict adds to its dynamics, it is important to understand your own feelings about conflict and what “triggers” you, so that you can avoid escalation and help to bring the interaction to a resolution wherein all feel respected and valued.
 
What do you think of when you think of conflict?
 
What are your triggers or hooks?
A trigger or hook is a behavior that almost always “gets to you”. It can be a situation, a word or phrase, or body language. It is important to know what behaviors and words hook you, so you can become conscious of your response, instead of being caught up in your reaction. Take a moment and answer these questions for yourself.
 
To what words do I strongly react?
(e.g., name calling, “whatever”, “get to the point”, swearing)
 
To what behaviors do I strongly react?
(e.g., eye rolling, sighing, hand on hip, arms crossed, personal space issues)
 
To what situations do I strongly react? What are my pet peeves?
(e.g., being kept waiting, being interrupted, being ignored)

Insider / Outsider Thinking

One factor that contributes to conflict at KBOO is insider/outsider paradigms. People need to feel a sense of belonging. Insider/outsider group thinking is present in every community; here at KBOO it seems particularly problematic. The KBOO volunteer community has about 500 members currently; and while the number of volunteers actively participating in the station is relatively stable, there is much turnover. Some of you have volunteered nearly since the very beginning, while others may have jumped in last week. In these circumstances, it is easy to feel that everyone else knows what’s going on, that you are being deliberately over-looked and left out. We can all help to alleviate this situation. Don’t assume that others are more in the know, or that information is being kept from you; ask a staff person about the policy or practice of doing something. Say hello and introduce yourself to people you don’t know yet-- they may be new, or maybe you just haven’t met, because you’re on different schedules.

Useful Tips in Resolving Conflict

Either / or; right / wrong; hot / cold thinking and positioning within conflicts will block meaningful dialogue, and does not make room for the fact that all parties are valued, even if there is disagreement—to resolve conflict, try to avoid dichotomous thinking.
 
There are some basic premises that, when adapted, will help to mitigate conflict, and encourage the exploration of meaningful difference, leaving us all with an enriched community.
  • You can never know another person’s intention / heart.
  • Your experience is valid – and so is everyone else’s.
  • Everyone wants to be the hero of her/his own story.
 
Healthy conflict resolution takes creativity.
  • I want to win, and I want you to win, too.
  • I am right does not mean that you are wrong.

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