Last time, I shared some of the basics of nonviolence and conflict resolution as practiced at KBOO. Sisters of the Road has been instrumental in helping us develop our guidelines. Below are additional materials from our most recent community meeting and training:
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.
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?
(continued on reverse side – please turn over)
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.
Common Questions about Nonviolence at KBOO
“Isn’t it true that sometimes you have to yell at someone to get their attention?” We have found, based on actual experiences at KBOO, that when conflicts appear to be resolved through verbal violence, what really happens is that the other person just withdraws and avoids the person who hurt them. They often go to others to share their story of the bad experience, and the conflict actually grows, even though it seems calmer for awhile.
“Should I call the police?” We avoid calling the police whenever possible. Is there a staff member or other person available who can gently help the person? Can it wait until later, or is there an immediate physical threat?
“I didn’t intend to humiliate them. I was ‘just stating the facts’ as I saw them.” Ask yourself, “Did I say it with love?”
“Maybe I should just “vent” to my friend or colleague.” Venting can be a good chance to blow off steam so that you can then deal with the problem directly. You may use venting to calm down so that you can come back tomorrow with an open heart. Gossiping or saying bad things about people will only make the problem worse. We will talk directly with the person who offended us, or get support from the appropriate staff or board person to do so.
“I don’t have a problem. They have a problem.” We will try to understand our own role in the conflict and how we can help de-escalate the situation and reach resolution next time instead of escalating. This is our opportunity for growth in conflict.
Maybe it’s better to just “let it go.” Sometimes, things aren’t a big deal, but over time, a lot of little things will build up.
“If I don’t deal with it right this second, nothing will ever happen.” It’s important to interrupt violence right away, but if we’re upset, it’s often a good idea to take time to cool off before we look for resolution. Wait at least a day before sending the angry e-mail. If you’re still mad, wait another day or run it by someone who is skillful in communications. If you or the other person is on the air or about to be on the air, ask yourself if this really has to be addressed right this second. You can always say, “I’m sorry we’re having a disagreement. I want to work with you on this later.”
“It’s my First Amendment right to say anything I want to.” We have a right as individuals to express our opinions, but we also have the right as a community to create safety and respect. How can we express ourselves without hurting others?
“Sometimes I get angry. You can’t expect me to never get angry.” We all get angry, we also all make mistakes, but we can choose what to do with our anger and with our mistakes. How do we address them with kindness towards ourselves and the other person?
“Should we ‘compromise’? Can we just ‘agree to disagree’?” We can, and sometimes that’s the best we can do. But compromising or agreeing to disagree doesn’t really leave either party satisfied. Better still is to find a solution that give both people what they want—or even more than they wanted.