This week we were asked to discuss a recent conflict in our professional or personal lives and the strategies we used or could use to resolve it. I remembered a recent ongoing conflict between a coworker and I. When I started working in the classroom, this person did some things that made my job very difficult. I felt that these things made me look bad to our supervisors. This conflict was more about actions than verbal communication. One example was that when I was changing a child on the diapering table, this person would walk out of the room and leave the door open. She was only leaving for a minute to bring a child to another classroom or bring the snack cart back, but this left enough time for several children to leave the room. Since the children were not used to me, they didn’t listen when I told them to stay and this person would get frustrated with me for allowing them to leave. I told her several times that I could not leave the changing table with a child there. I would have to stop the diapering, pick up the child and then run to the door which just wasn’t practical. That just wasn’t going to work and even though I kept telling her this, she continued to leave the door open.
Finally one day during planning, she told me that if I had any problems that she hoped I would tell her. This provided a supportive climate for me to voice my concerns. I told her that one of my problems was when she left the door open when I was unable to stop children from leaving. I told her that I was worried about the children’s safety and I didn’t want to get into trouble for a child leaving the room. She said that she understood and that she didn’t realize she was doing that so often. She said that she would make sure that she closed the door if she had to leave while I was changing the children. After our talk, I noticed that she left the door open less. There were other issues involved in this conflict, but I am focusing on this one for the purpose of this entry because it was the only part of it that was resolved.
At first, I used escapist strategies for several reasons. People may use escapist strategies if they want to avoid the conflict, they do not feel it is the right time or place to discuss the issue or they are waiting for the other person to raise the issue (O’Hair & Wiemann, 2009). I was new to the class so I was reluctant to bring up concerns. I didn’t want to be viewed as a complainer or disruptive. Also, there were limited opportunities to discuss issues since we were so busy with the children. So when she asked if I had any issues, I thought it was a good time to discuss it. During our conversation, we both listened to each other. Many conflicts can be avoided if we just stop and listen.
Next, we used a cooperative strategy to come up with something that works for us and the children. It benefited both of us because I didn’t have to worry so much about children leaving the room and she realized that she was doing something unsafe that she was willing to change.
It’s interesting how we want to teach children to share, to show empathy, to be good listeners, to be caring friends, but as adults we often forget about those things. Those are all important skills no matter how old we get.
O’Hair, D., Wiemann, M. (2009).
Real Communication: An Introduction.
New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s .
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