Coping with Conflict During your Day to Day Conflict


WELCOME

Welcome to "Coping with Conflict During Your Day to Day School Life". This course is intended to provide you with professional development by improving your understanding of conflict. It will give you skills to deal with the inevitable conflicts that arise during your day to day school life. It will give you skills to deal with the inevitable conflicts that arise.

It seeks to help staff spot the signs of a negative working environment, and to develop the skills required to make the school a better place in which to work, helping develop a collaborative approach that promotes the well-being of staff and students.

This course is divided into four modules:

  • Types of conflict and their causes
  • Dealing with conflict and difficult people
  • Mediation skills Assertiveness and criticism
  • Assertiveness and criticism

Note: some activities in Module 2 ask you to think about your role as a manager.

  • You can skip these activities if you don't have managerial responsibility.
  • Module 3 gives advice on mediation skills, both formal and informal.
  • If you don't have any formal mediation responsibility, you can use your experience with pupils as the basis for completing these activities.

PREPARATION

There is no preparation for this course.

COURSE STRUCTURE

This is an independent study program which means your individual starting date and due date are based on your date of registration. Your instructor will advise you of this due date.

This is an interactive online course. Although you will be able to complete some of it just by sitting in front of your screen working through the online material, we will regularly ask you to reflect on what you have learned, and put ideas into practice.

  • Activities - exercises or reflections for you to carry out in front of your computer screen. Unlike a Task, there is no specific end product, and you'll always be able to complete them on your own.
  • Tasks - similar to Activities, but requiring you to put your learning into practice in a specific situation in school.
  • Forms - use to collect the information learned.
  • Resources -

    a) RESOURCE FORMS: Has PDF forms to help you answer questions in the Student Books

    b) RESOURCE FURTHER READING: Includes clarifications about the module.

    c) REFERENCE LINKS: Has links to websites referred to in the module.

    d) DEFINITIONS: Has definitions of terms used in the module.

    e) BIBLIOGRAPHY: The bibliography is located at the bottom of this page that includes books you may check out at your local library.

  • Student Book- for you to record your reflections and send to your instructor.

At any time you may email your instructor with questions or problems you may be having with the material or the web site.

How do I get the Student Book to my instructor?

You will need to email it to your instructor. Download and save the document as described below and then you can enter your own text into the Student Book word document. Your instructor will expect a version of your Student Book as you complete each module. These can be saved by you in your files as well as being sent to your course instructor via email as an email attachment.

How do I save and name the Student Book?

You cannot type your answers on this web site. You must download your Student Book template which is a word document, by clicking on the download link below.

For your Student Book, please use a text document or a Microsoft Word document and type your text there. Title the document like this:

  • NAME OF CLASS
  • NAME OF TEACHER
  • YOUR NAME
  • DATE
  • MODULE1

[NAMEOFCLASS_TEACHERSNAME_YOURNAME_MODULENUMBER.doc ]

like this

6208_DRCLARK_JOHNDOE_MODULE1.doc

Save the Student Book on your computer and complete the assignments on the document and then email it to your teacher.

INDEX

STUDENTBOOKS

Click here to download all student books

MODULE1

RESOURCES

BIBLIOGRAPHY

REFERENCE LINKS

Module 1a: Types of conflict and their causes.

Module 1a- Intended learning outcomes for Module 1

Module 1b-Types of conflict

Module 1c- Activity 1: Recognizing conflict

Module 1d- Levels of conflict

Module 1e- Activity 2: Levels of conflict

Module 1f- Activity 3: Healthy and unhealthy conflicts

Module 1g- Activity 4: Unhealthy conflicts

Module 1h- Task 1: Causes of conflict

Module 1i- What's your attitude to conflict?

Module 1j- Activity 5: Are you driven by goals or relationships?

Module 1k- What have you learned? Evaluation of your learning from Module 1

Module 1l- Congratulations

MODULE2

Module 2a-Module 2: Dealing with conflict and difficult people. Intended learning outcomes for Dealing with conflict and difficult people

Module 2b- Don't assume you know

Module 2c- Task 2: Conflict analysis - the Jika Window

Module 2d- Task 3: Conflict analysis: TOSIPAR

Module 2e- Task 3 (cont): Conflict analysis: TOSIPAR

Module 2f- Activity 6: Raising problems as a manager

Module 2g- Activity 7: The Five C

Module 2h- Activity 8: Your action as a manager

Module 2i- Task 4: Negotiation

Module 2j- Task 5: Feeding back

Module 2k- Task 6: Observing negotiation skills

Module 2l- What have you learned? Evaluation of your learning from Module 2

Module 2m- Congratulations

MODULE3

Module 3: Module 3: Mediation skills

Module 3a- Intended learning outcomes for Module 3

Module 3b- What is mediation?

Module 3c- The role of the mediator

Module 3d- Activity 9: The role of the mediator

Module 3e-Skills of a mediator

Module 3f- Activity 10: Mediation skills

Module 3g- Activity 11: Mediation skills - extension

Module 3h- Influencing skills

Module 3i-Activity 12: Using influencing skills

Module 3j- Task 7: Recognizing different types of question

Module 3k- Steps in mediation

Module 3l- What have you learned?

Module 3m- Evaluation of your learning from Module 3

Module 3n- Congratulations


MODULE4

Module 4: Assertiveness and criticism. Intended learning outcomes for Assertiveness and criticism

Module 4a- Why we need to be assertive

Module 4b- Activity 13: What is assertiveness?

Module 4c- Task 8: Recognizing assertive, aggressive and passive behavior

Module 4d- Activity 14: How assertive are you?

Module 4e- The five positive behavior

Module 4f- Activity 15: What do these behavior achieve?

Module 4g- The four negative behavior

Module 4h- Task 9: Recognizing negative behavior

Module 4i-Giving and receiving criticism

Module 4j- Activity 16: Why criticize?

Module 4k- Activity 17: The problem of separation

Module 4l- The process of constructive criticism

Module 4m- Task 10: Giving constructive criticism

Module 4n- Responding to criticism

Module 4o- What have you learned? Evaluation of your learning from Module 4

Module 4p- Congratulations



Module 1- Module 1: Types of conflict and their causes

Module 1a-Intended learning outcomes for Types of conflict and their causes

By the end of this module you should:

  • know about the different types of conflict
  • understand why conflict can be damaging and why it can in some cases be beneficial
  • understand some of the causes of conflict

BACK TO INDEX


Module 1b-Types of conflict

Conflict doesn't always present itself as a simple one-to-one argument between two people. The nature of the conflict is always affected by the number of people involved (and that number can sometimes just be one - you!). Think about how the conflicts you have experienced in school have differed according to the number of people involved, and then click on Resource 1: Different types of conflict.

(Remember, whenever a word or phrase appears on screen in blue, like 'Different types of conflict' in the sentence above, you should click on it.)

BACK TO INDEX


Module 1c-Activity 1: Recognizing conflict

One of the biggest difficulties we have when analyzing conflict is owning up to the fact that we have been involved in it. Using your Student book (1) fill in brief details of each conflict, think about the different situations when conflict has occurred between you and another member(s) of staff in your working experience. To start with, try to remember situations where you have felt directly involved in a conflict situation. If you're struggling to recall many of those, try to remember situations between other colleagues or friends that you witnessed or knew about. If you still can't think of about four or five, think about conflict and confrontations that have happened in the wider world.

(You should spend a bit of time remembering the conflicts, as you will return to this information later in the module to illustrate some other points about the causes of conflict. The situations you choose could be anything you perceived to be a conflict, from an insignificant dispute about using the photocopier to a full-blown row about teaching styles. It could have involved a whole group, just two people, or just yourself. Briefly describe what happened between whom, and what the outcome was.)

In your Student book (2), think about the three types of conflict mentioned in Resource 1 and identify which might have been present in your chosen situations. Remember that these distinctions are quite fluid, and you might not be able to distinguish clearly between them. Think of them as stages on a continuum - as circumstances change and more people get involved, the conflict may move from one form to the next.

BACK TO INDEX


Module 1d-Levels of Conflict

How we deal with conflict depends on how serious the situation is. A one-off disagreement with the usually reasonable caretaker about staying late at school can be smoothed over with a degree of tolerance and a sense of humor. However, a serious dispute within the senior management team about unfair use of disciplinary procedures, for example, could be a threat to the smooth running of the school and may only be resolved with a carefully planned strategy or external help.

Daniel Dana (1990), highlights the following three levels of conflict that occur with decreasing frequency:

  • BLIPS
  • CLASHES
  • CRISES

(Remember: when a word appears on screen in red, you should point your mouse over that word to reveal a definition or explanation. If you would like to retain the definition, click on it and then print).

BACK TO INDEX


Module 1e- Activity 2: Levels of Conflict

Go to your Student book (3), where you will find your conflict situations listed. For each one, decide whether it was a blip, clash or crisis.

BACK TO INDEX


Module 1f-Activity 3: Healthy and unhealthy conflicts

You can think of conflict as two distinct types:

healthy (positive outcomes)

unhealthy (negative outcomes)

A key question to ask in deciding whether a conflict is healthy or unhealthy is whether or not the existing (pre-conflict) state was less acceptable than the later (post-conflict) state.

Go to your original conflict situations. Using Student book 4 decide for each one whether you think the outcome of the conflict was worth the human cost (in terms of stress, discomfort, personal relationships etc). In other words, was it healthy or unhealthy?

Having done this for all the situations you identified, have a look at Resource 2: Characteristics of a healthy conflict and Resource 3: Characteristics of an unhealthy conflict. Do you still agree with your interpretation of all of your conflicts? Perhaps a conflict you considered unhealthy actually had a positive effect. Make any changes in your Student book 4.

BACK TO INDEX


Module 1g- Activity4 : Unhealthy Conflicts

Think about conflicts that you believe have had a damaging outcome. They may be the ones you identified as unhealthy in Activity 3, or may be new ones you've just remembered. In your Student book (5), look again at your conflict situations, and for those that you marked as unhealthy, think about exactly what suffered as a result of the conflict. Who or what was damaged either during or after the conflict? To get you thinking, here are some examples of what can be damaged by conflict.

  • personal relationships (eg, colleagues at a similar level)
  • pupil learning (eg, teacher versus parent, principal, school board member)
  • professional development (eg, teachers versus managers)
  • the running of the school (eg, management versus administration staff)

BACK TO INDEX


Module 1h- Task 1: Causes of Conflicts

Think about the broad causes of conflict between people, both in work situations and outside. Click on Resource 4: Causes of conflict, and see if any of the causes you thought of are reflected here.

Arrange to speak to two or three trusted colleagues in your school and ask them to think about the reasons behind five experiences of conflict in which they have been involved in your school (or their previous schools if yours is particularly harmonious!).

Meet later for a few minutes with these colleagues to talk again. Remind them of the different types of conflict. Ask them to share their views on the causes of their conflicts. Using Resource 5: Causes of Conflict Form, note down which of the causes listed in Resource 4: Causes of conflict played a part in their conflict situations

BACK TO INDEX


Module 1i- What's your attitude to conflict?

You should now have an idea of some of the causes and types of conflict, any of which you could face in your day-to-day school life. However, an equally important factor to understand is your own attitude to conflict. The outcome of any conflict situation you're involved in depends very much on your awareness of what you deem important in your professional life, and how that affects your response to conflict.

BACK TO INDEX


Module 1j- Activity 5 Are you driven by goals or relationships?

This is a quick Activity to help you see where your professional priorities lie.

Click on Resource 6: Goals or relationships graph. Where would you place yourself on the graph? Print it off and mark your position with a cross if you wish.

You might like to print off the graph and ask your colleagues where they'd place themselves. Share your thoughts with the your colleagues, thinking in particular about the following questions:

  • Are you happy with your position on the graph, or would you like to focus more on either relationships or goals?
  • Where would you place the people with whom you've had conflict? Is there any pattern?

BACK TO INDEX


Module 1k- What have you learned? Evalutation of your learning from Module 1

When you have worked through the Activities and Tasks in this module, please look again at the intended learning outcomes for Module 1. By the end of this module you should: know about the different types of conflict understand why conflict can be damaging, and why it can in some cases be beneficial understand some of the causes of conflict How much has this course helped you to achieve these outcomes? Make your notes in your Student book (6) and e-mail your comments to your instructor.

BACK TO INDEX


Module 1l- Congratulations

BACK TO INDEX


Module 2A Dealing with conflict and difficult people

Intended learning outcomes for Dealing with conflict and difficult people

By the end of this module you should:

  • know how to analyze a conflict situation and see it from the other person's perspective
  • have acquired techniques that help you prepare for a conflict,
  • focusing on how to resolve it understand the steps that make for effective negotiation

BACK TO INDEX


Module 2B-Don't assume you know

If you're faced with a conflict situation that requires your personal intervention (not all do!), you need a range of strategies and structured approaches available to you before you enter into the confrontation itself. It's dangerous to assume you can just react without thinking, playing it by ear and relying on some 'instinctive' ability to sort out the problem. If you do this, the personal baggage that you inevitably bring into the situation will get in the way of finding a resolution. The following Tasks will introduce you to various systematic dispute resolution processes that should help you to think clearly about the causes and solutions of conflicts.

BACK TO INDEX


Module 2C- Task 2: Conflict analysis: the Jika Window

- Task 3: Conflict analysis: TOSIPAR

Understanding and accounting for the behavior of others is one of the most effective methods of defusing confrontation. It's important to step outside your own feelings for a moment and try to empathize with the other person. The Jika Window helps you to do this, as well as clarifying in your mind your own version of the problem and possible solutions.

  • Think of a conflict situation you are currently involved in, or go back to your Student book 1 in Module 1 and choose a conflict that you have recently been involved in.
  • Print off Resource 7: Jika Window template. In box 1 write a sentence that describes your perception of the conflict.
  • In box 2 write a list of all the things (including people) that are contributing to the problem.
  • In box 3 describe what you think things would be like if you took no direct action to resolve the conflict.
  • What would the consequences be if you took long-term sick leave for example?
  • In box 4 write a short sentence that describes a possible solution to the problem - the 'if only' dream that would resolve the conflict.
  • In box 5 write a list of the people and things that would contribute to a possible solution. In box 6 describe what life would be like for you and the other people involved in the conflict if the solution in box 5 actually worked.
  • What would the consequences be in, say, six months or a year?
  • Now print another copy of the Jika Window and do the whole exercise again, but this time start by putting the other person's perception of the problem in box 1.
  • As you complete the boxes, try to imagine their feelings about the conflict.
  • Compare your table with the table you have completed for the other person.
  • Where are the important differences?
  • What can be done (or was done, if your chosen conflict has already happened) to bring all sides together?
  • Now look again at your own table and ask yourself the following questions:
    • Have you included yourself as a contributor in box 2?
    • It's easy to forget to do this.
    • Are the contributors in box 2 the same as in box 5?
    • If not, whom do you need to work with in order to achieve a resolution? How do the consequences in box 3 compare to those in box 6?
    • If they are not that different, then ask yourself if it's really worth all the human cost to achieve a solution. It might be better to learn to live with it!
  • Was it easy to complete the boxes for the other person's perspective? Did it help clarify what you needed to do to resolve the conflict?

BACK TO INDEX


Module 2d Task 3: Conflict analysis: TOSIPAR

TOSIPAR is a simple A simple acrostic (devised by Bertie Everard) that is made up of the initial letters of words or phrases that will help you to address a conflict systematically. It looks like this:

  • Tune in to conflict
  • Objectives
  • Success criteria
  • Information about conflict
  • Plan to resolve conflict
  • Action
  • Review

BACK TO INDEX


Module 2E- Task 3 (cont): Conflict analysis: TOSIPAR

For this exercise, it will help if you are in a conflict situation, or if you can see a confrontation looming. Perhaps you can recognize a latent conflict that's been simmering subconsciously for a while, concerning you and a colleague, parent or school board member that may benefit from you taking some positive action. Don't do this unless you genuinely feel that the situation can be improved by some sort of action. If you aren't in a situation like that, imagine a hypothetical situation based on your previous experience and apply the TOSIPAR approach to that.

Sit down with Resource 8: TOSIPAR tool and spend some time going through the steps, noting down your thoughts as directed. Then try to put your plan into action in the conflict situation.

Did it help you to prepare for the confrontation? What did you think about the order of the steps, especially that 'Action' is the penultimate step? Would you usually do that much preparation before raising an issue with someone?

BACK TO INDEX


Module 2F- Activity 6: Raising problems as a manager

NB: If you don't have management responsibilities, you can skip this Activity. Just click 'Next'.

If you have management responsibilities, your position will sometimes require you to raise a problem you have with a member of your team about some aspect of their behavior or professional conduct. Some people find this difficult, as they fear a tricky or embarrassing situation, and may therefore let some things pass that should be addressed.

Think about a situation you've been involved in where you've had to raise an issue with someone you manage. You might have had a concern with their professional competence perhaps, or noticed a problem with their behavior with pupils or around school generally.

Now go to your Student book (7) and answer the questions there.

BACK TO INDEX


Module 2G- Activity 7: The Five Cs

The idea of the Five Cs approach is to try to avoid difficult conflict in the first place, while reinforcing the worth, dignity and integrity of the people involved. It is a step-by-step approach, based on the idea that each stage of the process should give you an opportunity to resolve the problem. If one method doesn't work, you move on to the next one on the list, and so on.

The steps are listed below. Think about what is meant by each step in the process, and then click on each word to see an explanation.

Resource 9: Concern

Resource 10: Confer

Resource 11: Consult

Resource 12: Confront

Resource 13: Consequence

BACK TO INDEX


Module 2H- Activity 8: Your action as a manager

NB: If you don't have management responsibilities, you can skip this Activity. Just click 'Next'. If you have management responsibilities, your position will sometimes require you to raise a problem you have with a member of your team about some aspect of their behavior or professional conduct. Some people find this difficult, as they fear a tricky or embarrassing situation, and may therefore let some things pass that should be addressed. Think about a situation you've been involved in where you've had to raise an issue with someone you manage. You might have had a concern with their professional competence perhaps, or noticed a problem with their behavior with pupils or around school generally. Now go to your Student book (7) and answer the questions there.

BACK TO INDEX


Module 2I- Task 4: Negotiation

The three techniques covered in the previous pages (the Jika Window, TOSIPAR and the Five Cs) help you to empathize with the other person's position, plan systematically to reach a solution, and take a logical route through the stages of a conflict. However, at some point in nearly all conflict situations you find yourself in, you will need to negotiate.

It's important to see negotiation as a set of skills, much like learning to drive, which you can use to reach a mutually acceptable decision. This Task is intended to make you think about the eight steps needed for effective negotiation.

The eight steps are listed below. For each step, reflect on:

(a) why you think the issue is important

(b) what you should do to achieve the best result

Then click on the link to see our advice, and when you've read them all, make a note of the main points (both yours and ours) in your Student book (9).

Resource 14: Choose the right place

Resource 15: Understand the other person's position

Resource 16: Listen and make your understanding clear

Resource 17: Build a relationship wherever possible

Resource18: Work from interests not positions

Resource 19: Know your bottom line

Resource 20: Use objective evidence wherever possible

Resource 21: Understand your own trigger points

BACK TO INDEX


Module 2J- Task 5: Feeding back

At the next meeting you attend (preferably one with a group of four or more people), listen out for any phrases your colleagues use to show that they are listening to a point made by another contributor. Note down the phrases as they are spoken. The sort of things you might hear are:

  • 'What you seem to be saying is... Am I right?'
  • 'Can we stop for a moment so that I can check I'm getting the message?'
  • 'If I understand you correctly, these are the points you are making.
  • Is that reasonable?'

Try out the phrases in your next meeting (it doesn't have to be a conflict situation).

BACK TO INDEX


Module 2K- Task 6: Observing negotiation skills

Some of the negotiation steps we met in Task 4 are not easy to observe in other people. It would be difficult to see someone else's bottom line, for example. However, you can see how some of the skills are used in practice, and this is a useful exercise. Next time you go into a meeting in which you suspect some sort of negotiation will take place, take the Resource 22: Observing negotiation skills tick box, and mark off each time you see one of the skills used. Try out each of the steps next time you're involved in a conflict situation.

BACK TO INDEX


Module 2L- What have you learned? Evaluation of your learning from Module 2

When you have worked through the Activities and Tasks in this module, please look again at the intended learning outcomes for Module 2. By the end of this module you should: know how to analyze a conflict situation and see it from the other person's perspective have acquired techniques that help you prepare for a conflict, focusing on how to resolve it understand the steps that make for effective negotiation How much has this course helped you to achieve these outcomes? Make a notes in your Student book (10) and e-mail your comments to your instructor.

BACK TO INDEX


Module 2N- Congratulations


Module 3 Mediation skills
Module 3a- Intended learning outcomes for Module 3



By the end of this module you should:
  • understand the roles of the mediator
  • know some of the skills needed for successful mediation

BACK TO INDEX


Module 3b- What is mediation?

Mediation is a way of resolving disputes which lets the people involved reach an agreement with the help of an impartial third party - the mediator. If you're a teacher, you will regularly come across arguments between pupils that can't be resolved without your help. As a school manager, you will sometimes be faced with quite serious problems between colleagues that require your impartial intervention. Mediation is one of the most effective ways to resolve both types of disputes. Obviously the type of mediation you use will depend on the situation. Many of the skills you will learn about in this module are the sort of techniques that professional mediators use in very serious disputes. However, the principles can be applied to more informal situations (such as playground disputes between pupils) with similar success.

Some of the benefits of mediation:

  • It allows people to rebuild relationships. This is unlike other processes that require a judgment (eg, going through the courts), which often leave residual hostilities.
  • It enables the parties to come up with a practical solution that will benefit all sides.
  • It can be used preventatively to stop problems from escalating, therefore preventing a huge drain on time, money and emotion.

 

BACK TO INDEX


Module 3c- The role of the mediator

Module 3: Mediation Skills The role of the mediator We saw in Module 1 that some unhealthy conflicts can only be resolved by a judgment from an external source (eg, the courts, a tribunal, the head, etc), thus producing a WIN/LOSE outcome. Mediation is different from this because it's the parties themselves, not the mediator, who decide the terms of any settlement.

BACK TO INDEX


Module 3d Activity 9: The role of the mediator

Think of some examples of conflicts you've been involved in or witnessed during your career that have needed some form of mediation to resolve them. These might be disputes between colleagues, arguments between pupils, or even problems between your school and an education authority. Write up your thoughts in your Student book (11).

Click on Resource 23: The role of the mediator to stimulate your thinking.

BACK TO INDEX


Module 3e- Skills of a mediator

As with negotiation, the key to mediation is to think of it as a set of discrete skills, rather than some assumed ability that will somehow help the two sides come together, just because you're a good manager.

BACK TO INDEX


Module 3f- Activity 10: Mediation skills

Think about the conflicts you identified in Activity 9 that needed some form of mediation before they could be resolved. You may have been the mediator yourself (perhaps for arguments between pupils), or the conflict may have needed mediation from someone else. Can you define the skills that were used by the mediator?

Now look at the list of Resource 24: Mediation skills which shows the main skills a mediator needs. Do they match the skills you thought of?

BACK TO INDEX


Module 3g- Activity 11: Mediation skills - extension

What do you think is meant by each of the skills listed in the previous Activity (Resource 24)? In your Student book (12), write a sentence or two to describe what you think are the main points to remember for each skill.

When you've done that, compare your thoughts with those in Resource 25: Mediation skills discussed. If you wish, return to your Student book(12) to update your entries with any points you find useful from Resource 25.

BACK TO INDEX


Module 3h-Influencing skills

By influencing skills, we don't just mean the ability to persuade either party to come round to your way of thinking (although you need to be able to do this too). You also have to facilitate a discussion from which an agreement can come. For this, you need four main skills. Click on Resource 26: Influencing skills to see these skills.

BACK TO INDEX


Module 3i- Activity 12: Using influencing skills

Think of a situation, preferably current (if not, then one from your recent past) in which you have the role of a mediator, whether formally or informally. Ideally, the disputers involved are adults, but if you have to, use pupils as an example. In your Student book (13), think about how you can use each of the skills listed in Resource 26. Think about the disputers. Are they reserved or aggressive? Do they understand your suggestions on how to take the situation forward? Are they holding anything back? For each skill, think of a useful phrase, relevant to the particular situation and people, that will help you elicit a positive response.

BACK TO INDEX


Module 3j- Task 7: Recognizing different types of question

Now let's return to the important mediation skill of successful questioning. There are at least nine different types of question:

  • Open
  • Closed
  • Probing
  • Checking
  • Reflective
  • Leading
  • Hypothetical
  • Provocative
  • Assertive

This is a quick exerciseto get you thinking about the uses of different types of question. When you next have a meeting in which questions might be raised (a staff meeting perhaps), take with you a copy of Resource 27: Types of question and make a note of each question that is asked. Try to identify which type each question is. Do certain types of question always begin with the same two or three words? Eg, 'Do...?', 'Why...?', 'What...?'

BACK TO INDEX


Module 3k- Steps in mediation

A lot of what we call mediation is done informally, without acknowledging that the mediation process is happening (for example, when two pupils have a one-off argument in the playground). How you use some of the skills will depend on the seriousness of the situation. The more serious and ingrained the dispute, the more preparation you will need in your role as a mediator.

Print out and read Resource 28: Mediation steps. Keep this as a useful checklist to help you in any more formal mediation situation.

BACK TO INDEX


Module 3L- What have you learned? Evaluation of your learning from Module 3

When you have worked through the Activities and Tasks in this module, please look again at the intended learning outcomes for Module 3. By the end of this Module you should:

  • understand the roles of the mediator
  • know some of the skills needed for successful mediation

How much has this course helped you to achieve these outcomes? Make your notes in your Student book (14) and e-mail your comments to your instructor.

BACK TO INDEX



Module 3m- What have you learned?

When you have worked through the Activities and Tasks in this module, please look again at the intended learning outcomes for Module 3.

By the end of this Module you should:

  • understand the roles of the mediator
  • know some of the skills needed for successful mediation

How much has this course helped you to achieve these outcomes? Make your notes in your Student book (14) and e-mail your comments to your instructor.

BACK TO INDEX


Module 3n- Congratulations

BACK TO INDEX


Module 4 Assertiveness and criticism

Intended learning outcomes for Assertiveness and criticism

By the end of this module you should:

  • understand the difference between assertiveness, aggression and passivity
  • recognize positive and negative behaviors, and their impact on a conflict situation
  • have the assertiveness skills needed to successfully give and receive criticism

Module 4a- Introduction to Module 4

School staff spend their energies – quite literally – in dealing with and caring for young people, somehow knowing that this is time well spent. Most teachers and support staff feel that this attention brings pupils closer to achieving their full potential. It’s this that brings many people into the profession into the first place. But it’s both sustaining and exhausting.

BACK TO INDEX


Module 4b- Why we need to be assertive

An underlying quality that will help you resolve all types of conflicts, whether as a participant or mediator, is assertiveness. We have seen from previous modules that it's vital that you have a clear outcome in mind before you enter a conflict, negotiation or mediation. However, even the most laudable intentions are useless without the assertiveness needed to put them into practice. Similarly, you need to show assertiveness when giving and receiving criticism, so that it becomes a constructive process and not a precursor to conflict.

BACK TO INDEX


Module 4c- Activity 13: What is assertiveness?

Formulate your ideas on the definition of assertiveness. Look at our definition by clicking here Resource 29: Definition of assertiveness and see how it compares with your thoughts. Have we omitted any important features? Record your thoughts in your Student book (15).

BACK TO INDEX


Module 4d- Task 8: Recognizing assertive, aggressive and passive behavior

Now return to the situations listed in Resource 30: Recognizing assertive, aggressive and passive behavior, and think honestly about how you would have reacted in each scenario. Decide whether your responses are assertive, aggressive or passive.

Are you happy with your responses?

BACK TO INDEX


Module 4e- Activity 14: How assertive are you?

Now return to the situations listed in Resource 30: Recognizing assertive, aggressive and passive behavior, and think honestly about how you would have reacted in each scenario. Decide whether your responses are assertive, aggressive or passive.

Are you happy with your responses?

BACK TO INDEX


Module 4f- The five positive behaviors

There are certain behaviors you can exhibit that will help you in a conflict situation. If you know how to use these behaviors and what positive impact they can have, you'll have more confidence in your dealings with difficult people.

Resource 32: The five positive behaviors is a list of the five most important positive behaviors (some of which we've covered in previous modules).

BACK TO INDEX


Module 4g- Giving and receiving criticism

Situation 4 in Task 9 showed what can happen if someone takes criticism badly. It's important as a teacher or manager in school that you learn both to give and receive criticism well.

If you look up 'criticism' in a dictionary, one definition will say something like 'the judging of merit of something or someone'. Although we've come to understand criticism as having an emphasis on finding fault, you shouldn't forget this fundamental purpose with its focus on merit.

BACK TO INDEX


Module 4h- Activity 16: Why criticize?

In your Student book (17), note down three or four recent occasions when you've criticized a colleague for something. What were the aims of your criticism?

Think about what you broadly hoped to achieve with your criticism. Did any of your aims match those given in Resource 37: Aims of giving criticism?

BACK TO INDEX


Module 4i- Activity 17: The problem of separation

In your Student book (18), note three or four examples of when you yourself have been criticized recently. Remember that these needn't be big dramas - just occasions when a colleague (manager or otherwise) has pointed out an area of your professional life where they feel you could improve, eg, timekeeping, classroom practice, contributions to meetings, etc.

Note how you responded in each case. How did you feel, and what action did you take? Think particularly about the following two points about separation.

  • Were you able to separate criticism about professional matters from criticism of you as a person? Did you feel you were being judged as a person rather than professionally?
  • Were you able to separate criticism of one aspect of your job from all-round inadequacy? Did you go away with the feeling that the person criticizing you was unhappy with your work generally, or just one specific area?

This separation is often difficult to achieve, but is vital if the criticism is to achieve a positive outcome. There are steps you can take, both when giving and receiving criticism, to increase the chances of this healthy separation taking place.

BACK TO INDEX


Module 4j- The process of constructive criticism

It's important that you spend some time preparing before you give someone constructive criticism. It's usually not helpful if you just blurt out your thoughts as soon as you see something to criticize in a colleague. The chances are you won't put into words exactly what you meant to convey, and they will be more likely to misunderstand and react negatively. Resource 38: The process of constructive criticism has six steps to remember about giving criticism.

Resource 38: The process of constructive criticism

Prepare your thinking and get the facts

What exactly are you hoping to achieve with this criticism? This calls for a bit of background research. You may have to speak to colleagues to understand the extent of the problem, or look at the previous behavior of the person whom you are about to criticize to find clues on how to elicit a positive response.

Prepare your key dialogue statements

Rehearse what you're going to say beforehand. Listen to yourself. How does it sound? Could it be misinterpreted? Does it sound too harsh? Not harsh enough? Could you benefit from highlighting a positive side of this person first? If the criticism is serious enough, you may want to rehearse first with a colleague (perhaps your mentor or critical friend).

Consider the approach and the venue The venue and seating arrangements for your criticism can have an effect on the whole atmosphere of the discussion. You might want to hold the meeting in private to maintain confidentiality and reduce the chances of embarrassment. If the problem is less serious, this might create an overly formal atmosphere, where a minute or two in a corridor would be more appropriate. Similarly, think about any statement of power that the venue makes. Would you prefer to be in a neutral place where both parties are equal, or do you need the power implied by your sitting behind a desk in your office?

Remember your body language

Your body language can have a much greater impact than you may think. Think about your stance and posture. Is it open and friendly, closed and aloof, or aggressive and threatening? Try not to be so self-conscious that you appear unnatural, however.

Seek assertive responses and positive outcomes

This is about looking out for any of the negative behaviors we came across earlier. If they show signs of reacting aggressively, defensively or submissively, they may not be separating your criticism from their overall personality or their all-round ability to do their job. Remind them that you're happy with everything else (if you are!), and make them see that this is an opportunity for improvement and personal development. Ask them how they plan to put it right.

Listen

Give them a chance to speak, making sure you summarize and feed back your understanding of what they have said.

BACK TO INDEX


Module 4h- Task 10: Giving constructive criticism

If you have a criticism to make to a colleague (and again, this may be something minor but it's still worth going through this process), go to your Student book (19) to work through the six steps of constructive criticism. Use the space provided to give yourself prompts for each stage. You may want to use this checklist for a current situation, or you may want to print it out and use it for any future time when you need to make criticisms.

Module 4i- Responding to criticism

Responding well to criticism is a pre-requisite of successful professional development. If you know how to receive criticism, not only will it improve your performance, it will also help you when you need to give criticism yourself. Resource 39: Receiving criticism well has six steps to remember when you find yourself on the receiving end.

BACK TO INDEX


Module 4j- What have you learned? Evaluation of your learning from Module 4

When you have worked through the Activities and Tasks in this module, please look again at the intended learning outcomes for Module 4. By the end of this module you should:

  • understand the difference between assertiveness, aggression and passivity
  • recognize positive and negative behaviors, and their impact on a conflict situation
  • have the skills needed to give and receive criticism assertively.

How much has this course helped you to achieve these outcomes? Make your notes in your Student book (20) and e-mail your comments to your instructor


Module 4k- Congratulations

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Author: Dana, D Title: Managing Differences: How to Build Better Relationships at Work and Home (1998) Publisher: MTI Pubs ISBN: 0962153435

Author: Dana, D Title: Talk it Out! 4 Steps to managing people problems in your organization (1990) Publisher: Human Resources Development Press, Inc, Amherst, (out of print)

Author: De Bono, E Title: Six Thinking Hats (2000) Publisher: Penguin ISBN: 0140296662

Author: McCall, C and Lawlor, H Title: School Leadership: Leadership Examined (2000) Publisher: The Stationery Office ISBN: 0117026123

Author: Nathan, M Title: A Handbook for Headteachers (2000) Publisher: Kogan Page ISBN: 0749431792
BACK TO INDEX

RESOURCES

Resource 1: Types of conflict and their causes

Different Types of conflict

Internal conflict: when you experience mixed emotions when viewing an issue, or are torn between two conflicting viewpoints and can't decide which of your values or beliefs to trust.

Interpersonal conflict: when disagreement, ill will, or distrust develops between you and one or more individuals. This could be a general 'coolness' or tension between you and a colleague, or a more serious argument or confrontation.

Group conflict: the groups involved could be either formal or informal (eg, senior management team versus the rest of the staff, teaching staff versus administration staff, or a random alliance of teachers versus a different random alliance of teachers).It clears the air. This can be important when disagreements and resentments lie beneath the surface. They can't be observed but exist nevertheless. These are called latent conflicts. · It can stimulate creativity. It can sometimes be useful to deliberately manufacture conflict to create a certain amount of tension and friction. This is known as designer conflict.

Resource 2: Types of conflict and their causes

Characteristics of a healthy conflict

  • It challenges the status quo, and stops things from stagnating.
  • It provokes necessary change.
  • It creates development opportunities (for an individual, the curriculum, working practices, etc.).
  • It clears the air. This can be important when disagreements and resentments lie beneath the surface. They can't be observed but exist nevertheless. These are called latent conflicts.
  • It can stimulate creativity. It can sometimes be useful to deliberately manufacture conflict to create a certain amount of tension and friction. This is known as designer conflict.

Resource 3: Types of conflict and their causes Characteristics of a unhealthy conflict

  • Two polarized perspectives are set up and there is little chance of compromise.
  • The result is often decided by a 'judgment' from an external source. There's always the chance that this judgment will be wrong.
  • It results in one perspective dominating, and the other being ignored, regardless of any positives represented in the 'losing' point of view.
  • The results can be damaging to personal relationships and ultimately pupil achievement.

Resource 4: Types of conflict and their causes

Causes of conflict

Philosophy / motives / concerns: we all have deep-seated concerns that stay with us all our lives. Our philosophies are shaped by our own school experiences, the quality of our relationships, our work environment, and the things we read and watch.

principles / values / standards: a lack of shared ground rules governing how we are expected to behave in situations can cause conflict. Our values might be shaped by the environment we're in, eg, religious values in a church school. Standards can cause conflict in a number of ways, eg, do all teachers agree that the emphasis in pupil achievement should be on high standards of assessment results?

entrenchment: people feel differently but equally passionately, and an unhelpful stubbornness can set in. Entrenchment can be magnified by the group dynamic - in the staff room it can be very difficult to change your mind without being accused of being disloyal.

human characteristics: a difference in the needs of individuals can be a cause of conflict. Eg, a newly qualified teacher's primary concern may be his pay check, because he needs enough money to buy food. A senior manager's personal need may be to have her status recognized, because she's new to her job. If these two people clash, their different underlying personal needs may hinder a resolution.

ignition: some conflicts don't fit any pattern. They just happen without any warning and a relationship goes wrong.

Resource 5:

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD PDF

Resource 6:

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD PDF

Resource 7:

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD PDF

Resource 8:

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD PDF

Resource 9: Dealing With Difficult People Concern You should approach the other person gently at first, letting them know that you're concerned for their welfare. Make sure they realize that you know they might be having difficulties and allow them the opportunity to discuss this.

Resource 10: Dealing With Difficult People Confer Have an informal discussion with the other person, making it clear that you want a positive interaction. Smile, be non-threatening and respectful. eg, 'John, your coming late to staff meetings means we have to interrupt them. Could you try to be a bit more punctual?' Confer also with colleagues, if necessary, bringing the problem out in the open. If this doesn't work, move on to the next stage.

Resource 11: Dealing With Difficult People Consult This is a more formal stage. Tell them you need to talk to them, and agree a time to meet. Because this consultation involves talking about what has already been said, it requires firmness and directness. eg, 'John, last week you said you'd be on time for staff meetings, but this morning you were late'. At this stage, you should try to get the other person to abide by commitments they made in the earlier stage. If the problem persists, move on to the next stage.

Resource 12: Dealing With Difficult People Confront By this stage, you should take a no-nonsense attitude and point out that the problem has been addressed repeatedly before. It's at this stage you should talk about the possible consequences if the problem continues, which could be formal disciplinary or competency procedures or a report to School Board members. eg, 'John, you've been late for every staff meeting this term, and by asking questions on information that's already been covered, you are making people stay much later than they should. Unless you come to the next four staff meetings on time, I'll have to invoke formal disciplinary procedures.'

Resource 13: Dealing With Difficult People Consequence When all else has failed, you have to follow through with the consequences you spelt out in the confrontation. An important consideration here is that you have clear documentation that you sought other avenues before reaching this stage. This means keeping notes of what happened at each of the preceding stages.

Resource 14: Choose the right place

Dealing With Difficult People

Choose the right place

The venue and seating arrangements for your negotiation can have an effect on the whole atmosphere of the discussion.

  • Try to hold the meeting in private wherever possible.
  • This maintains confidentiality and reduces the chances of either party feeling embarrassed.
  • Try to hold the meeting in a place where both parties are equal.
  • Two examples of where an unwanted statement of power can be implied are sitting behind a desk in the head's office, or having a parent sitting on a child-sized chair while you sit on an adult one.
  • Choose a room that will give you enough time to negotiate without interruption.
  • Interruptions can often scupper your chances of agreement, and have a habit of coming at the wrong time.

Resource 15: Understand the other person's position

Dealing With Difficult People

  • Understand the other person's position Successful negotiators take a positive step and try to understand the other position in a debate as well as they understand their own.
  • Temporarily reduce the strength of your own feelings as much as possible before the negotiation.
  • If after trying to see the situation through their eyes you still can't see their point, try to find out and understand everything you can by asking good questions.
  • Let the other person talk first. This isn't just to let them get things off their chest (although this might be a useful by-product). You're trying to understand their point of view by listening to the facts and interpreting from their manner, body language and tone what exactly their 'interest' (or real problem) is.

Don't rehearse your arguments while they are speaking - listen to what they are saying.

Resource 16: Listen and make your understanding clear

Dealing With Difficult People Listen and make your understanding clear Listening doesn't just involve hearing. A good active listener confirms to the other person that they have heard. Frustration isn't caused because the other person isn't listening - it's because we don't have any evidence that they are listening. Active listening also shows the other person that you are genuinely interested in finding a mutually suitable agreement, not just a 'Win' for yourself, and helps to build a relationship.

  • Use positive body language (open posture, eye contact, nodding, smiling).
  • Summarize what the other person has said, by expressing the key points in another way. This helps to clarify the meaning to you.

Feed back what you have heard to show you are trying to understand the message. This gives the other person the chance to put you right if you have misunderstood.

Resource 17: Build a relationship wherever possible

Dealing With Difficult People

Build a relationship wherever possible

A good relationship can dramatically help the negotiation process.

This doesn't mean you have to try to be lifelong friends (although this would help!) - in fact, as negotiations are necessary because two parties don't agree, it's possible that many of your negotiations will be with people with whom you don't see eye-to-eye on a lot of things.

Because of this, there's even more reason to make an extra effort to build a relationship.

Show respect for the other person's opinion (active listening is a way of doing this).

  • Try to be fair, and be seen to be fair.
  • Express your point of view calmly and try not to be patronizing.
  • Show that you are thoughtful about your own areas of interest

Resource 18: Work from interests not positions

Dealing With Difficult People

Work from interests not positions

'Positions' are what we state; 'interests' are what we want to achieve.

For example, a parent may complain that you're ignoring their child.

This is their position, but it may be hiding their real interest.

Their interest may be: concern at their child's lack of ability, the need to express an interest in their child's education, or even a desire to have their child placed at a school nearer their home.

Don't argue about the other person's expressed position.

Find out what interests lie behind their position by asking questions and using active listening skills. Eg, 'You seem to worried about your child's lack of progress this year.

Am I right?' Be aware of your own interests, as this helps clarify the problem.

Allow the other person to see what lies behind your position, so they can take steps to meet your needs.

Resource 19: Know your bottom line

Dealing With Difficult People

Know your bottom line

  • The act of negotiation requires some give and take, but you should protect yourself from ending up dissatisfied by knowing your bottom line.
  • The negotiation will have been pointless if you bend over so far backwards that you end up with nothing.
  • Postpone an impending negotiation for a few hours so that you have time to clarify in your mind the least satisfactory position you're prepared to accept as reasonable.
  • Keep it simple (not a long complicated list of variables), and make sure it allows room for movement towards the person with whom you are negotiating.

Resource 20: Use objective evidence wherever possible

Dealing With Difficult People Use

objective evidence wherever possible

  • Objective evidence is helpful to both parties as it reduces the chances of either party being 'beaten' solely by the force of personality or arguing skills of the other.
  • It also increases the chances of your staying calm, because you are dealing with facts rather than opinions.
  • By using objective evidence you are also reinforcing the ground rules for your negotiation and encouraging the other person to do the same.
  • Try to get as much objective evidence and as many facts as possible.
  • Ask questions which will establish objectivity, such as 'Can you let me know the names of the other parents who agree with you?'
  • Agree with the other person as to what type of evidence can be considered objective and fair, going by standards of what would be acceptable to most people.

Resource 21: Understand your own trigger points

Dealing With Difficult People

Understand your own trigger points

Most of us know that certain small behaviors cause us to react negatively, but don't seem to bother others one bit - e.g., people being late or fiddling with a pen, or avoiding eye contact.

In negotiation, this sort of arbitrary distraction can impair your judgment and prevent you from focusing on the real issues. Identify your own trigger points before any negotiation.

Make a list, and then have them at the back of your mind so that you can stay in control if they happen. Acknowledge these behaviors if they crop up, but try not to become irritated. Re-focus on the best possible outcome.

Resource 22:

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD

Resource 23:

Mediation Skills

The role of the mediator is as follows:

  • The role of the mediator is to assist the parties involved in reaching a mutually satisfactory agreement, thus resolving the dispute.
  • The mediator has to explain the process to all parties involved, making sure they understand what is expected of them (ie, a WIN/WIN result).
  • The mediator meets with each party separately to ensure a full understanding of the facts.
  • These meetings are confidential and information is only released to another party with prior permission.
  • The mediator shouldn't have the power to impose solutions on the parties.

Mediation should be voluntary, non-binding, and without prejudice to the rights of the parties.

Resource 24:

Mediation Skills

  • Mediation Skills
  • WIN/WIN approach
  • Creative approach
  • Rapport building
  • Active listening
  • Influencing skills
  • Ability to use power constructively
  • Ability to manage emotions
  • Good questioning skills
  • Ability to initiate options
  • Problem solving skills
  • Effective negotiation skills
  • Ability to handle stress effectively

Resource 25:

Mediation skills discussed

1. WIN/WIN approach

Your goal should be to find a solution that is acceptable to all parties, rather than passing judgment that one is 'right' and the other is 'wrong' (a WIN/LOSE result).

  • To achieve this in practice, both sides might feel they have had to compromise to a degree to reach agreement. They may feel more satisfied than happy, so you might prefer to see this approach as OK/OK rather than WIN/WIN.
  • You need to be creative to resolve the problem. Just one example of a technique to use to bring creativity to your approach is De Bono's Six Thinking Hats.
  • It doesn't matter what technique you use - just as long as you're flexible in your thinking about the conflict.

2. Rapport building

  • You should use good interpersonal skills to build a relationship with both parties. ·
  • You shouldn't take sides, or be seen to take sides.
  • You should listen to each party's account of what has happened, but always try to bring the focus round to what will happen.

3. Active listening

  • Active listening, as we saw in Module 2, involves confirming to the other person that you have understood what they've said.
  • Summarizing and paraphrasing what has just been said helps the other person know you're listening.
  • Use phrases such as 'what you seem to be saying is… . Am I right?'

4. Influencing skills

There are four main strands to this:

  • persuading,
  • asserting,
  • drawing out,
  • and drawing in.

These are discussed later in this module.

5. Ability to use power constructively

  • As a mediator you have power, because in the eyes of the disputers you are in a position of authority.
  • This may be hierarchical power (eg, if you're the direct supervisor of one or more of the people involved), in which case you must be careful not to use any of this type of authority in your role as a mediator.
  • You may also have information power. This means that you may know more about a situation than the person you're listening to. For example, you know that personal problems caused person A to behave as they did, but person B doesn't know this. It's important that you don't give person B the impression that you know more than they do.

6. Ability to manage emotions

  • You must be aware of your own emotions and how to control them.
  • Unwanted emotions include annoyance and frustration, but can be anything that gets in the way of your remaining logical, calm, rational and focused on the problem.

As was discussed in the Negotiation section of Module 2, the disputers may display certain behaviors that will trigger unhelpful negative emotions in you. Identify these trigger points before any mediation session so that if they happen, you are ready to react more positively to them.

7. Good questioning skills

There are many different types of questions you can use to elicit a response that will be beneficial to the mediation. You may have to use a combination. These are discussed further in Task 7.

8. Ability to initiate options

The options you suggest as the way forward must be reasonable, workable and entirely appropriate to all parties in the conflict. ·

If one of the disputers asks 'what should I do?', it's no good just saying you don't know and that it's down to them. The options you suggest could be action they have tried before. In the mediation setting, they may have more chance of success than before.

9. Problem-solving skills

  • You have to help the disputers find a solution to their conflict themselves. There are many different techniques you can use to do this, including the Jika Window and TOSIPAR that were discussed in Module 2.

10. Effective negotiation skills

  • Just as you need to negotiate when you are personally involved in a conflict, so you have to use similar skills to help the disputers to reach an agreement. See Module 2 to get more tips on negotiation.

11. Ability to handle stress effectively

  • The process can be very stressful for the mediator. Unless you have strategies for coping with stress, you will be an ineffective mediator as your mental state will be exacerbated by the stress of the participants.
  • If you're prone to stress anyway, you should perhaps think twice before agreeing to mediate in serious disputes.

Resource 26: Mediation Skills Influencing skills

1. Persuading. All suggestions you make to the parties should be backed up by logical rationale. Eg, 'Have you thought about sitting apart from each other in class? This would make you less likely to argue.'

2. Asserting. It's important that you assert your own rights as a mediator to protect yourself from abuse. The disputees may be frustrated or angry, and direct these emotions towards you. It's not your job to simply take this - let them know that you are volunteering to help them and that as such you don't expect to be abused. Tell them whenever you deem their behavior towards you to be unacceptable.

3. Drawing out. In some cases, the parties may be unwilling to tell you too much, fearing that you will judge them or take sides. You need to encourage them to share all their thoughts and feelings. Empathize with the disputees by listening actively and demonstrating that you understand what both are saying. This will help you earn their trust and cooperation, which, in turn, makes them more likely to tell you all the details of the conflict you need to know.

4. Drawing in. You should disclose your own feelings from time to time, perhaps about how you feel the discussion is going or even about experiences you may have had that are similar to theirs. If you're open about your thoughts on the conflict, they are more likely to be too. To someone who you think feels angry, eg: 'Sometimes I get very frustrated with colleagues, and have to count to ten before speaking.'

Resource 27:

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD

Resource 28:

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD

Resource 29:

Assertiveness and Criticism Definition of assertiveness

  • Assertiveness is behavior designed to obtain our legitimate rights with dignity, while respecting the dignity and rights of others.
  • Notice the use of the word 'designed'. This shows that assertiveness is behavior that is thought through beforehand, rather than some innate personality trait that a lucky few can display on the spur of the moment.

Resource 30:

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD

Resource 31: Assertiveness and Criticism Answers to Task 8 Passive Assertive Passive

  1. Assertive
  2. Passive
  3. Assertive
  4. Assertive
  5. Aggressive
  6. Assertive
  7. Aggressive

Resource 32: Assertiveness and Criticism The five positive behaviors

  1. Assertion
  2. Cooperation
  3. Control
  4. Understanding
  5. Negotiation

(from Leapwade International Trading / Meridien Human Resource Development)

Resource 33: Assertiveness and Criticism

More on the five positive behaviors

1. Assertion: This is as we defined earlier. It's behavior designed to obtain our legitimate rights with dignity, while respecting the rights of others.

2. Cooperation: Joint action is vital, so that everyone has a say in the solution. To work well with others, you need to be assertive yet sensitive.

3. Control: This is self-control - controlling your words and emotions so that you can always maintain your calm, even when you feel provoked or abused.

4. Understanding: Showing concern for other people's feelings, establishing facts and listening actively to understand the genuine interests of the other person.

5. Negotiation: You need a set of negotiation skills in order to achieve a mutually acceptable solution. See Module 2 for further advice on negotiation skills.

Resource 34: Assertiveness and Criticism

The four negative behaviors

1. Defensiveness

2. Submission

3. Aggression

4. Lack of understanding

Resource 35: Negative responses Situation Behavior

1. Your Principal has been trying to get you to write a section of the annual report to governors on a subject that is not really your area. You've told her that you're really busy and that someone else would be better placed to write it. As the deadline approaches, she asks you again. You can't be bothered to argue, so you do it, spending many late nights in order to meet the deadline, before submitting the report without complaint.

2. A mother complains to you about your handling of her child. You know her to have been a difficult parent in the past and assume that she's causing trouble again. You hear her out, but she doesn't seem to be making much sense, so you get rid of her as quickly as possible and tell her things will be fine.

3. Some classroom resources you were promised a month ago have still not turned up and it's making it very difficult for you to teach. At the next staff meeting, you stand up and say angrily that the situation is unacceptable. The Principal is annoyed at your tone of voice and a minor spat ensues.

4. Your colleague suggests you could improve your class control by observing another colleague's class. You see this as unfair as you've had some particularly difficult classes recently and assume therefore that your colleague doesn't like you. You resolve to have a "clear the air" meeting with him as soon as possible.

Resource 36: Assertiveness and Criticism Analysis of Task 9

Situation 1: Submission

Although this may seem like a positive response in one way (you're agreeing to help out, and after all, everyone must 'muck-in' from time to time), it's actually a dangerously submissive response. You've already explained your reasons for not wanting to write the report, but the head has worn you down with the number of her requests. You have a valid position, but instead of sticking up for it by firmly but politely declining her request, you just give up and write it anyway. You should at least say something when you give it to her, like: 'I've written it this time as the deadline was near, but if I decline a request in the future please listen to my reasons for doing so and respect them if they're valid.' Submissive behavior can sometimes lead to staff bullying, unless the person involved makes a concerted effort to be more assertive.

Situation 2: Lacking understanding

We don't know if the mother's complaint is valid, but it's your initial attitude to her that is worrying. You've made up your mind that she is living up to her reputation as a troublemaker without listening properly to her with an open mind. By making no attempt to actively listen (by reflecting, summarizing, attention-giving, etc), you can't understand her real reason for complaining, which may well be valid. A more assertive response would have been to assume her complaint was valid, listen to her for a reasonable length of time, and try to understand her point by asking questions and summarizing her reasons. If you then decide her complaint is not worthy of any action, you will have the information to explain this to her more clearly. She will hopefully leave at least with the feeling she's been heard.

Situation 3: Aggression

Aggression is one of the most infectious behaviors. People often respond to aggression with aggression, as was the case here. You can exhibit aggression with a look, a gesture, your tone of voice, or the way you phrase your speech, and sometimes you don't know you're doing it. This situation was bound to result in greater conflict, rather than your getting a solution to the problem. You had good reason to be angry, but you would almost certainly have got a better response if you'd stayed calm and not allowed your approach to be perceived as aggressive.

Situation 4: Defensiveness

By interpreting the team leader's criticism as a personal attack, you are heading for a negative outcome. It's very important that you separate criticism of one aspect of your professional life from criticism of you as a whole. The 'clear the air' meeting is unnecessary - it's unlikely that your team leader thinks there's any air to be cleared, as it's a fundamental part of his job to point out areas in which they think you could improve. There is no reason to think that he doesn't like you or that he is deliberately getting at you. If you really think you don't need any help, you should ask the team leader why he thinks you would benefit from this observation, and calmly explain your recent difficulties.

Resource 37: Assertiveness and Criticism

Aims of giving criticism

  • To assert your right as a teacher / team leader / supervisor
  • To assert your need to support school improvement
  • To help someone in their own personal and professional development Remember, your aim should never be to attack a person and their rights.

Resource 38: The process of constructive criticism

The process of constructive criticism

Prepare your thinking and get the facts

What exactly are you hoping to achieve with this criticism? This calls for a bit of background research. You may have to speak to colleagues to understand the extent of the problem, or look at the previous behavior of the person whom you are about to criticize to find clues on how to elicit a positive response.

Prepare your key dialogue statements

Rehearse what you're going to say beforehand. Listen to yourself. How does it sound? Could it be misinterpreted? Does it sound too harsh? Not harsh enough? Could you benefit from highlighting a positive side of this person first?If the criticism is serious enough, you may want to rehearse first with a colleague (perhaps your mentor or critical friend).

Consider the approach and the venue

The venue and seating arrangements for your criticism can have an effect on the whole atmosphere of the discussion. You might want to hold the meeting in private to maintain confidentiality and reduce the chances of embarrassment.If the problem is less serious, this might create an overly formal atmosphere, where a minute or two in a corridor would be more appropriate. Similarly, think about any statement of power that the venue makes. Would you prefer to be in a neutral place where both parties are equal, or do you need the power implied by your sitting behind a desk in your office?

Remember your body language

Your body language can have a much greater impact than you may think. Think about your stance and posture. Is it open and friendly, closed and aloof, or aggressive and threatening? Try not to be so self-conscious that you appear unnatural, however.

Seek assertive responses and positive outcomes

This is about looking out for any of the negative behaviors we came across earlier. If they show signs of reacting aggressively, defensively or submissively, they may not be separating your criticism from their overall personality or their all-round ability to do their job. Remind them that you're happy with everything else (if you are!), and make them see that this is an opportunity for improvement and personal development. Ask them how they plan to put it right.

Listen

Give them a chance to speak, making sure you summarize and feed back your understanding of what they have said.

Resource 39: Assertiveness and Criticism

Receiving criticism well

Listen

  • This is the most important factor in gaining a positive outcome.
  • Don't have any preconceived ideas about what they are going to say and don't assume that you know all your own faults.
  • Remember that this is an opportunity to learn and develop.
  • Pay close attention to what they are saying and show them that you have understood by summarizing and feeding back.

Consider their rights and your rights

  • Do they have rights as your supervisor or team leader to criticize you?
  • If not, is their aim to support school improvement or your personal improvement?

Remember your rights.

  • If you feel the criticism is unfair, say so and on what grounds, and let them respond.

React assertively

  • Remember the definition of assertiveness we discussed earlier (see Resource 29), and the exercise in Task 8.
  • Try to be assertive, rather than aggressive or passive.

Seek clarification

  • Ask questions of your critic, but limit them to the facts, and to how they think you can improve.
  • Don't ask, for example, just why they are attacking you!
  • If you have any doubts at all about the reason for their criticism, get them to clarify.

Consider an apology if appropriate

  • An apology can actually be a very assertive response.
  • If you can clearly see how you have behaved poorly, apologizing for this shows you have understood, and that you intend to change that aspect of your behavior or practice.
  • Don't apologize unless you know why you're doing it.

Seek positive outcomes

  • Tell your critic how you intend to improve, giving concrete examples of how you will act differently in a similar situation in the future.
  • If appropriate, thank the other person for their criticism to show them that you are a reflective practitioner who values the opportunity for self-development.

DEFINITIONS

Six Thinking Hats

A decision -making system devised by Edward de Bono in which different colored hats denote different types of thinking (information-led, cautious, positive, intuitive, etc). By wearing a particular hat, members of a group are encouraged to look at a problem from one particular perspective at a time.


4 comments


  • PAT REDMAN

    Thanks a lot, this really is a truly awsome article! Unfortunately, I found this article too late – I already found the answer on another service. Try PDFfiller to fill OR Separation-2F here https://goo.gl/VLycjn It allows you to to fill out PDF files.


  • Jane Schave

    test


  • Jane Schave

    April – I have finished most of my edits on the Conflict course.


  • april

    comment


Leave a comment