We are trained to encourage our students to be compassionate and understanding and to handle conflicts with maturity and empathy without blaming one another. As teachers, we know we need to lead by example and ‘walk the talk’. But how do we handle these conflicts when your fellow teacher colleagues are the ones who seem to always be showing up late for class, not communicating or not performing at work… When it’s simply not your fault?
Mindfulness techniques can help us gain perspective and clarity in a conflict before it snowballs out of control. Instead of instantly reacting, try scanning yourself first. Taking an introspective approach may help you realise how you can adapt and also what you are doing to affect the situation.
But what in the world is an introspective approach to handling conflict? Ok, let’s talk it through.
Recent research has found that people tend to put themselves on a pedestal and to jump to blaming other people, and most of the time, this fuels frustration and stress rather than solves the conflict. By taking a step back and scanning yourself first, you will be able to come in to the situation with clarity on the conflict and a different perspective - potentially even a more objective perspective.
Here’s a practical breakdown:
IDENTIFY EXTERNAL FACTORS THAT MAY HAVE IMPACTED THE CONFLICT
Take a deep breath. Ask yourself: Why am I really so upset? Why is this triggering me? Is there something else going on in my life that may have influenced me? Has a similar situation occurred in the past? Gain clarity on what caused this conflict to arise - check yourself first.
YOUR REACTION TO A SITUATION SAYS MORE ABOUT YOU, THAN IT SAYS ABOUT THEM
Ask yourself: Are you feeling insecure or hurt about something that could have triggered you to become upset? Scan yourself to see what may have triggered you to react in the way you did and this may make you realise that there are core insecurities or fears that are causing you to react in a particular way - that has nothing to do with your colleague.
WORK THROUGH YOUR FEARS TO NURTURE RELATIONSHIPS
After identifying your core insecurities or fears - work through them. A lot of times, we realise that when we put our own fears to the side, we are able to communicate better and look at a situation more mindfully and with empathy. How does my frustration help in improving a colleagues performance? Well, as you’ve probably realized.. It most likely wouldn’t help at all. It is easy for us to get caught up in the situation and forget that the world won’t come to an end, even if the outcome wasn’t what we hoped for.
USE MINDFUL COMMUNICATION
If you have addressed your own fears and insecurities and you have noticed your own triggers, you will then have a more clear picture on the situation. It is then up to you to communicate with compassion and clarity; how the situation affected you and how it triggered your reaction. By communicating effectively, you are giving space for your colleagues to share their feelings and reactions in a calm manner as well. Using blame is likely to put your colleagues on the defensive and is unlikely to solve the situation. Try speaking from your experience and also leave room to hear their experience of the situation.
Of course, there are times when colleagues are simply not performing, but by taking this approach you have avoided a reaction based on your own fears and external situations. This will also help avoid instant negative reaction, relieve you from negative emotions and frustration towards a situation and also potentially prevent conflict to occur.