It’s 3:00 a.m. You wake up in a jolt and immediately start reliving a contentious parent meeting. The intense feelings of discord are still palpable and you notice your heart rate picking up as you recall what was said and how you felt. You remember the unfair tone used against you, the unkind words and the twisting of facts. The complete scenario unfolds in your head while you lie awake in bed. You realize sleep is impossible as your mind jumps from one stressful moment to the next.
We have all been there, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Building principals frequently deal with conflict. Whether the conflict is between students, staff, or parents, avoiding conflict as a principal is impossible. There are a variety of strategies you can take to help guide the way to positive conflict resolution while maintaining a positive working environment. Here are a few pointers from www.mediate.com that can help resolve conflict:
- Stay calm.
- Listen to understand.
- Accentuate the positive.
- State your case tactfully.
- Attack the problem, not the person.
- Avoid the blame game.
- Focus on the future, not the past.
- Ask questions carefully.
- Pick your battles.
- Link offers.
- Be creative.
- Be confident.
- Celebrate agreement.
Ultimately, accept that conflict is inevitable. You will eventually need to mediate a situation. It is important to begin the meeting with a set of ground rules and expectations that all participants can agree to. Be sure to express your good intentions in an attempt to build trust. Listen actively and intently, and allow all voices to be heard in order to explore solutions. To make this a productive endeavor, be sure to keep the topic on the issue at hand; resist making it personal for anyone and always control the narrative and tenor of the meeting. In reality, some meetings will go well while others may not, but only you can control how you react during difficult times.
During your day, you can help relieve stress and calm your thoughts by striving to act in an ethical manner and staying calm. Other strategies to help relieve stress include finding ways to do something positive for someone else and exercising daily. Remember, the most important aspect of conflict mediation is to move on and not dwell on the problem. There will always be other important decisions that require your attention. As a principal, it is imperative not to take the problem home with you. Time at home and with your family is sacred and deserves your most positive and stress-free self.
Handling conflict can be one of the most important yet difficult aspects of being a principal. How you handle it can determine your success and longevity as a servant leader. Practicing mediation skills and stress reduction will ensure you get a good night’s sleep.
By Jennifer L. Hammond, Ph.D. and Donald J. Hammond, Ph.D.