TM4T - Bloody People

This page is mostly about inter-adult conflict - which obviously isn't really Time Management.  There is an important link though, because 'conflict' - in its various guises of interdepartmental squabbling, bullying management styles, and personal rivalries - imposes a dreadful drain on non-teaching time in schools. At TM4T, we try very hard NOT to be a management consultancy, but we do want to help (especially because a number of teachers have asked about this topic).

So... this HUGE long page represents a dump for resources from a variety of INSET sessions dealing with staff conflict, how to deal with difficult people professionally, effective inter-adult communication, assertiveness, and so on...  Quite a few of the slides have been used in more than one course.

Just to be absolutely clear: this is not one training course - it contains about 80 slides, representing about twelve hours of presentation material across a range of topics. It does also require a fair amount of background knowledge to deliver this to an unsympathetic audience.

The resources are a mix of presentation slides, activities, handouts and guidance notes for facilitators. The idea is that you (the session leader) can copy and paste these into the appropriate medium (slide, handout, whatever...) to suit your needs.  The difference are pretty clear, but just to spell it out, each section starts by stating what the text is intended to be (eg facilitator's introduction or slide material or...).  

And... you may note that there are some gaps in the logical flow of material - this is because we've chopped out any stuff that is copyright-protected, or we didn't produce ourselves. If we have accidentally included anything which belongs to you, just let us know and we'll remove it. If you desperately need anything specific, let us know...

Facilitator's Introduction

What is Conflict?
  • Disagreements result from differing opinions, values & points of view
  • We often rely on facts to settle disagreements, but most facts  are themselves open to interpretation – and disagreement
  • Disagreement becomes conflict when it becomes charged with emotions and intense feelings
  • Resolving conflict is the art of redirecting, reducing or resolving disagreements between or among people

... then talk through following slides

Slide Material:

Sources of Conflict 1

  • Personal (teacher) factors
    • Differing backgrounds: decade of adolescence, culture, education, values, experience... 
    • Differing styles: dominant, supportive, objective
    • Differing perceptions: world-view, attitude to life, work experience, career aspirations
    • Self-esteem: self-image, inner feelings
  • Organizational (school) Factors
    • Resources: scarce-plentiful, money, time
    • Structure: devolution of power, authority, control
    • Goals: clarity, achievement, results
    • Roles: expectations, clarity, detail
    • Norms: traditions, rules, beliefs

Slide Material:

Sources of Conflict 2

  • Communication factors...
    • apply to people as well as computers
  • Why is this important?
    • conflicts can arise when messages are misinterpreted, but more importantly...
    • when a conflict already exists, messages are much more likely to be misinterpreted - even if they are not directly linked to the 'issue'

Slide Material:

Underlying Causes of Conflict...
  • … are emotional, not logical
  • Values are fundamental guiding principles...
  • Imagine two heads of department, both who believe strongly in the importance of developing happy well-rounded students and achieving excellent results. No potential for conflict, surely?

Slide Material:

  • … are fundamental guiding principles in our lives
  • … play an important part in conflict management and avoidance
  • Unless both recognize their values are different and that neither is wrong, there is a constant risk of disagreement, and conflict

Slide Material

The Four Principles of Conflict at Work
  • Disagreements represent a natural element in human interaction and workplace relations, and wherever there is disagreement, there is the risk of conflict. It's normal. 
  • Conflict doesn't usually go away if you ignore it
  • Regardless of the rationalisations given, most conflict has its roots in a threat to someone's self esteem
  • The greater the threat of loss of self-esteem, the more tenaciously a person will defend their point of view or action

Slide Material

Barriers to Conflict Resolution
  • Blind hope that the conflict will go away in time
  • Fear of open confrontation, fear of losing, fear of having one's own petty motivations revealed
  • Threat of loss of self-esteem
  • Misunderstandings (see next slide)
  • Difference: values, culture, gender, etc...
  • Hidden agendas
  • Banter, put-downs, and negative judgements
  • Intimidation, bullying and abuse of power
  • Lack of time and/or energy
  • Failure to recognise or understand conflict

Slide Material

Misunderstandings – the Four Messages
  • Every message you give comprises
    • what you meant to say
    • the words you actually use and how you say it
    • the words the other person hears and what they see
    • what the other person decides you meant
  • It really isn't surprising misunderstandings arise

Facilitator Guidance Notes (to match previous slide)

  • For whatever reason, some teachers seem to misunderstand the importance of misunderstanding
  • The key point is that if there is a lack of trust and respect, then all communications are likely to be interpreted as hostile, however illogical that might be.
  • Give reminders and examples of possible negative misunderstanding throughout...
    • “Why do you do that?” =  'That's unnecessary'
    • “Why do you do it like that?” = 'That's the wrong way to do it'
    • “Why do you need that?” = 'You don't need that'
    • “I only want what's best for the school” = 'You don't'
    • “Thank you” = sarcasm
    • “I'm really busy” = “You're not important”

Facilitator Script (to prepare for following exercise)

[this exercise is only appropriate for groups who struggle with non-verbal control, either by inadvertently communicating hostility or by suppressing emotion so much that they appear distant. This MUST be done quickly; if it drags out, drop it]

The "Why do you need that?" Exercise
  • Talk through the background: there is an ongoing conflict (it doesn't matter what it's about) and you have been accused of micro-managing and being heavy-handed. 
  • Now... next year's budget is being planned and money is tight. You are talking to someone who has listed some expensive equipment in their 'must have' spend for next year. 
  • The other person is involved in the other conflict, but that is nothing to do with the budget.
  • All you want to do is find out why they need this equipment. 
  • You don't want to annoy them
  • Five words only: why do you need that?
  • Learning point: it is difficult NOT to communicate emotion or to suggest underlying motivation.
The 'suggestions' are likely to involve non-verbal communication, or preambles, or scene-setting, or using an intermediaries. All good to discuss. Make sure phone, e-mail, etc are discouraged.

Handout Text

“Why do you need that?”

The Scenario
  • There is an ongoing conflict (it doesn't matter what it's about)
  • You have been accused of micro-managing and being heavy-handed. 
  • Now... next year's budget is being planned and money is tight. You are talking to someone who has listed some expensive equipment in their 'must have' spend for next year. 
  • The other person is involved in the other conflict, but that is nothing to do with the budget.
  • All you want to do is find out why they need this equipment. 
The Task
  • You don't want an argument
  • You don't want to annoy the other person
  • You just want some information
  • Work in pairs, and ask the simple question: 'why do you need that?' Nothing else.
  • Give feedback on:
    • tone of voice & facial expression
    • what a listener might have deduced
    • did it sound like a request for information or a challenge or a snoop? 
    • did it sound cold? hostile?
  • Repeat the phrase, placing emphasis on different words ('why', 'do' etc)
    • does this change the meaning?
Suggestions, Please...

There are plenty of ways to resolve this. List them

Slide Material

The Bad News about Staffroom Conflicts
  • The key rarely lies in objective truth, but in what's going in people's heads
  • Facts rarely contribute much to resolution – if objective reality isn't the cause, it's unlikely to be the solution
  • Coping with school conflict means coping with how teachers perceive and feel
  • These feelings can drown out rational argument: if you don't harmonize the feelings, you won't resolve the conflict

Slide Material

The Conflict Management Process in Summary
  • The emotions and perceptions need to be tackled before the core problem
  • The inter-personal issues (the emotions and perceptions) are tackled by 'confronting' them – involving one or more confrontation meetings.
  • Then, and only then, can 'win-win problem-solving' be used.

Handout Text

Confronting Interpersonal Issues
  • Beforehand, write out a confronting statement (see separate sheet), then neutralise that confronting statement (see sheet) 
  • Prepare a meeting:
    • choose a time reasonably convenient for your colleague
    • choose a neutral location, reasonably convenient for your colleague
    • arrange for privacy and no interruptions
    • set up the location for collaboration
      • equal-status chairs, no table-or-desk barrier, reasonable comfort
      • paper, pencil, water, tissues-in-reserve
      • not visible to others
  • Do it
    • adopt an open, non-threatening seated position on the edge of the colleague's body-space
    • explain your objectives simply, using a soft-but-clear voice
      • you would like to feel that you have been heard and understood
      • you want both-of-you to talk honestly and openly
      • you know that both-of-you want what's best for the students and the school
      • you want to reach a mutually acceptable outcome
    • check that you and your colleague are ready; if not, wait and repeat-if-necessary
    • then present your confronting statement (see separate sheet)
  • Review it

Handout Text

Confronting Statements
  • Write out the confronting statement (always start with 'I'):
  I felt … when … because …. Can we talk about ….?
  • Review your statement, and alter or omit any words that clearly may hurt or incite
  • Avoid the word 'you'; use 'it' instead: eg NOT “I felt betrayed when you went to the Head because you had promised not to” but “I felt let down when the Head was involved because I thought it was agreed that it wasn't going to happen like that”
  • Avoid implying intents or motives: eg NOT “I felt angry when you changed my marks because it meant that you didn't respect me” but “I felt angry when you changed my marks because I couldn't see any justification for it”
  • Don't place blame (who is right); instead focus on outcomes (what is right) 
  • Make it as clear, simple and direct as you can
  • Practice saying your statement – make sure you can say it calmly and evenly, without displaying any strong emotion

Facilitator Guidance Notes (if confusion is likely)

Assertiveness Statements vs Confronting Statements

Be careful to distinguish between (a) confronting statements, which are used in formal, staged meetings to resolve interpersonal issues in conflict and (b) assertiveness statements (DESC) which are used in everyday disagreements when someone pisses you off:
D (describe neutrally what happened, without blame)
E (express how you felt about it)
S (specify what you want to happen)
C (consequences – what benefits will result if what you want to happen happens)

DESC Example

Describe: 'after the last Open Evening I had to spend an hour tidying up the Lecture Room'
Express: 'the following day I felt exhausted and angry'
Specify: 'this time I would like us both to make less mess and to clear up together afterwards' 
Consequences: 'with two of us it should take no time at all'

Handout Text

The Confrontation Meeting

  • Remember: in spite of the name, this is not about confronting a colleague – it about confronting the emotional and perceptual issues which are prolonging the conflict
  • Think about your body language
    • avoid closed, defensive postures – crossed arms, face touching, etc
    • avoid dominant postures – hands steepled, behind head etc
  • Be prepared to repeat or rephrase your confronting statement until you feel heard – ask them to playback what you've said to ensure understanding
  • Listen carefully to your colleague's response and be prepared to apologise if you have – for whatever reason – caused discomfort.
  • When you sense willingness to solve the problem, move onto the Win-Win process – make sure that your colleague understands the process.
  • Make sure a follow-up meeting is scheduled.
  • Before closing the meeting, summarise (or listen carefully to your colleague's summary) and say 'thank you'.

Slide Material

Win-Win Problem-Solving Process
  1. Agree on the BANS (see next slide)
  2. Write down what you need and what you want (and the other teacher does the same)
  3. Share your needs-wants and ensure clarity
  4. Generate a list of possible solutions
  5. Evaluate the list of options against both teachers lists of needs and wants
  6. Choose, and agree actions, responsibilities and dates
  7. Agree a date to review
  8. Review and modify

Slide Material

  • BANS stands for: Best Alternative to a Negotiated Settlement
  • Conflicts are uncertain, and this leads to stress
  • Conflict resolution is best handled using a step-by-step process, as this removes uncertainty by  increasing transparency – everyone knows what happens next in the process...
  • … or do they? What happens if you-and-your-colleague can't agree? What happens then?
  • START by answering this question. Options include: a cooling off period before trying again, involving a mediator, bringing objective others into the next discussion, seeking more hard facts, and so on....
  • The intention should be that everyone knows what is going to happen, whatever happens...

Slide Material

Understanding Assertiveness

Assertiveness involves a balance...

Assertiveness involves both rights...

… and responsibilities

Slide Material

Assertiveness: What it's NOT and what it IS...

It is not being aggressive or being submissive, or combining the two. Aggression and Submission are endocrinal responses based on fight-or-flight

Assertiveness is a behaviour of choice; a behaviour of logic

Facilitator Guidance (relating to previous slide)

Definitions if needed...
  • Being Assertive involves expressing your opinions, goals, and wants clearly without apologies or hostility. It also involves respect for yourself – your feelings, ideas and rights – and standing up for the rights of others.
  • Being Aggressive involves expressing your opinions, goals and wants in a way which demeans the rights of others. It involves trying to dominate or control others in order to ensure your own beliefs prevail. Examples include: bullying, sarcasm and exaggeration.
  • Being Submissive involves allowing yourself to be demeaned by others. Examples include being inappropriately apologetic, excessive modesty, failure to express honest feelings, and inability to say 'no'.

Handout Text

Six Types of Assertive Behaviour

  • Basic: “I think it's important that we hit these report deadlines. What can we do to make sure that happens?”
  • Empathetic: “I do understand that you'll have to call a team meeting, and I realise that won't be easy, but I really feel we need to hit the report deadlines. How can we make sure that happens?"
  • Soliciting-Response: “Do you agree that we really must hit the report deadline?  What can we do to make sure that happens?"
  • Discrepancy: “We've talked before about these report deadlines, and agreed that they were important, but it seems that the deadlines are still being missed. How can we....?”
  • WEFL (Negative Feelings): “WHEN we miss an important deadline, the EFFECT is that I get irate messages from the governors, and this makes the FEEL uncomfortable because I am caught in the middle between the governors and you-and-your-team. I'd LIKE to discuss how we can avoid this.
  • Consequence: “If we don't hit the next deadline, I will suggest that the governors talk to you directly. What can we do to avoid this?”

Slide Material

Assertiveness Statements: DESC

Describe: 'after the last Open Evening I had to spend an hour tidying up the Lecture Room'

Express: 'the following day I felt exhausted and angry'

Specify: 'this time I would like us both to make less mess and to clear up together afterwards' 

Consequences: 'with two of us it should take no time at all'

Slide Material

Assertiveness Statements Exercise
  • Use the DESC process to prepare a statement for something which has been irritating you at school.
    • D (describe neutrally what happened, without blame)
    • E (express how you felt about it, using 'I' not 'You' eg NOT “you made me feel silly', but “I felt silly')
    • S (specify what you want to happen)
    • C (consequences – what benefits will result if what you want to happen happens)

Slide Material

Four keys to showing assertiveness in disagreement:
  • Separate the issue from the individual/s
  • Own your statements
    • “I feel that...” or “I think that”...
    • NOT “there's a general feeling that...” or “the governors and I have been talking and we think ...”
  • Share the responsibility for resolving the issue
    • “How can we make sure this doesn't happen again...”
  • Summarise clearly what has been agreed and what your (joint) intentions are

Facilitator Introduction Script (for following slides)

Four steps towards being assertive:

Assertive behaviour has many books written about its many aspects: influencing events, expressing your wants, standing up for your rights and defending your position; having positive feelings, creative purpose, expressing ambition, having goals and affirmative feelings. Loads of waffle, but it boils down to four simple steps

Slide Material

Four steps to being assertive:
  • Know what you want
  • Don't “try to do” something or “do it, hopefully, with a bit of luck”, just 'do it'
  • Feel okay about your right to act, to do what you choose, to say what you feel
  • Be aware of other people's responses

Slide Material

Assertiveness - Don't Do This
  • Don't express your views accompanied by apologies or self-deprecation
  • Don't express possible negative consequences as threats
  • Don't use negative words where clear positive alternatives exist
  • Don't express unsolicited value judgements
  • Don't be petulant
  • Don't be vague
  • Don't be meek

Facilitator Introduction Script & Notes (for following exercise)

Passive Aggression

The phenomenon of passive-aggression was first documented in the US military. Lower ranks couldn't argue or challenge authority or get annoyed, but they could display behaviours like:
  • acting dumb or sullen
  • sarcasm or clowning or being cryptic
  • deliberate procrastination or lateness
These days the term is used more generally to describe someone who appears to want to express anger, irritation, dissatisfaction, but does so in an indirect non-confrontational way, frequently non-verbal (for example through tone of voice).

Passive Aggression Exercise

This exercise has more than one right answer. Encourage learners to demonstrate why their answer is correct – use their demonstration to explore how non-verbal communication - especially tone of voice - communicates being assertive, aggressive, passive, passive-aggressive.
Answers: in order, probably AG, AS, PA, P, AS

Handout Text

Passive Aggression Exercise

Label each of the following statements as AS (assertive), AG (aggressive), P (passive), or PA (passive-aggressive). Be prepared to explain your answers. 
  •  If Jim's stupid mobile phone rings one more time while I am marking, I will chuck it in the sink. 
  •  I was embarrassed when you asked me for my lesson plans in front of the Head, Jim. In future, if you tell me what you need at the meeting, I'll make sure that I can give you the support you need. 
  • It must be really difficult to be so brilliant at lesson planning, Jim. You're my hero and I wish I could be like you.
  • I'd love to help with the planning – and sorry, Jim, I know I said I might help - but my Head of Department gives me so much to do, and Easter's coming up and there's coursework and stuff, but I will try. Sorry.
  •  No, Jim. I would like to help, but I'm too busy at present. Maybe next term. 

Handout Text

Assertiveness Exercise

Summarise how you might deal with one of these situations assertively. Be prepared to discuss your answers.

1. You've been helpful to Jim for the first three weeks of term, but now you're getting irritated. Jim's classroom PC is very slow, so he has asked if he can use yours, and now he does so – regularly. He has his lunch at your PC, and you are starting to feel like an intruder in your own teaching room

2. You attended a meeting yesterday alongside your boss, and heard a Governor ask how soon your Department's mock exams would be marked. Your boss gave a completely unrealistic answer and this date is now set in stone. You couldn't contradict your boss in front of the governors, but now your colleagues may blame you if the silly deadline is missed.

3. Your department is really busy due to staff absence. You have, unsolicited, offered to help your boss cope with the workload. You expected this to last a couple of weeks. Now, every Friday, your boss gives you extra work to do, which is usually needed by 10 AM Monday, and doesn't always say 'please' or 'thank you' any more.  You are tired of this routine, which has being going on for over a month.

Facilitator introduction script (for following slides)

Diplomatic Disagreement

Most schools are fairly egalitarian, but sometimes we need to disagree with someone difficult. In this context 'Difficult' means that there is a clear power imbalance, and the other person sees status and authority as important. Being assertive in these situations may be correct, but it may not necessarily be career-enhancing.

Slide Material

Diplomatic Disagreement Model

1. Listen attentively and respectfully
2. Summarize the information you are given. Ask if you are correct.
3. Pause. This is important: pause.
4. Find something – anything – to agree with, even if it is a general principle.
5. Pause. Yes, again: pause. 
6.  Disagree (ideally making positive suggestions, or asking questions to raise doubts)

Handout Text

Diplomatic Disagreement Exercise

In pairs, discuss, and then demonstrate how you might disagree in one of these situations. Listen to your partner's feedback. Be prepared to demonstrate to the group.

1. Your school has had a new Music studio built, and a launch ceremony needs to be planned. A very influential and notoriously touchy parent governor has given you an unsolicited 'event schedule' and clearly expects you to use it. It is amateurish and horrible. You now need to respond to your gift. 

2. The Head tells you that she is sick of people's negative attitude to CPD and that in-house technology training must be at the core of the next Inset day. In-school technology training was given last year and most staff – including you - found it a waste of time. Advise your leader.

3.  The school manager has been on an HR training course, and wants you to reword the job-titles and rewrite the role descriptions of everyone in your department. By the end of the month, please. You are too busy to do this, but...You really, really don't want to annoy the school manager who will be reviewing and approving your budget next week. 

Facilitator introduction script (for following exercise)

Ways to say 'No'

There are several models, explaining step-by-stop how to say no.  Choose one model and practise it till you are perfect.

Handout Text

Ways to say No - Model 1
  1.  Say something positive
  2.  Roll out the negatives (ie the problems which would result)
  3.  Say 'No'
  4.  Offer an alternative
Example:  “This is a good idea (1) but there's just too much going on at present, and the exams have to be my priority (2) so put me down as a 'No' (3) but I'm happy to get involved later in the term (4)”

Ways to say No - Model 2
  1.  Say 'No'
  2.  Say something positive
  3.  Explain your reasons
  4.  Say something positive
Example:  “No. (1) I'd like to help (2) but it clashes with my evening class and I can't miss that. (3) I do think it's a good idea, though. (4)”

Facilitator's introduction script (for following slides)

Getting to the Facts

  • In many disagreements, we want to discuss the facts, but emotions get in the way
  • Some people find expressing their feelings very easy, and - with them - feelings are expressed before, or instead of, the facts.
  • In this situation you need to deal with the feelings first before dealing with the facts
  • Examples:
    • I don't have to explain myself to you – I'm his mother!
    • The school takes an age to do anything – I'll get advice about college somewhere else
    • You don't know what you're talking about. My squash partner is a teacher. 
Introduce the Feel-and-Find method, and point out that
  • it moves from the present to the past to the future...
  • it involves joining/agreeing with the complainer are leading them towards where you want to go
  • it really only works if you are dealing with a common complaint for which you have a well-understood reply

Slide Material

The Feel-and-Find Model
  • The 4F method is used to lead someone from a negative feeling towards a more positive outlook.
  • Then you can consider the facts.
  • The method:
    1. So you feel... 
    2. Others have felt...
    3. They found...
    4. You will find...
“You might feel that the school has been a bit slow dealing with this (1) and it's true that others have felt the same (2). When they saw our proposals, though, they found that they were worth waiting for (3) and I'm sure you will find the same (4)”

Slide Material

Giving Constructive Feedback Part 1
  • Start with the positive – this makes it more likely that you are heard: “I liked the way you explained the situation, but you didn't answer the parent's questions clearly enough”
  • Be specific – this gives greater opportunities to learn: “Your explanation was really clear” or “You never checked for understanding”, NOT 'you were great' or 'you were dreadful'
  • Focus on what can be changed – this makes improvement possible: “If you smiled a little less, you would be taken more seriously”, NOT 'it's a pity you're so friendly'
  • Offer alternative examples  -  this turns a negative into a positive: “If you had asked 'any questions?' at the end instead of 'thanks for coming', we could have been more confident about the parents' support”

Slide Material

Giving Constructive Feedback Part 2
  • Describe observation and effect – rather than simply evaluating: “When you stood up and smiled, that made me feel that you were in control of the situation”, not 'I thought you handled that well'
  • Own the feedback – don't give god-like insights: “I felt that you appeared nervous to the parents”, not 'You were nervous back there'
  • Leave the choice to the other person – this is less likely to provoke resistance or resentment: “you could consider the importance of posture in your body language”, not 'stand up straight and pull your shoulders back next time'
  • Think about what your feedback says about you  - the things we focus on communicate our values to others. Listen to yourself, and consider if you like what others are hearing about you

Slide Material

Receiving Feedback Part 1 
  • Encourage constructivity – now you know what good feedback is, ask for it: “Could you give specific examples, please?”
  • Listen carefully – feedback always tells us something, even if it relates to other people's perceptions. 
  • Make sure you understand  – don't jump to conclusions or become defensive. Paraphrase or repeat negative feedback to confirm understanding: “You're saying that my body language made the parents uncomfortable?”
  • Get second opinions  - if a perception about you is widely held, even if it is wrong, there may be something you want to change

Slide Material

Receiving Feedback Part 2 
  • Ask for what you don't get – the feedback the other person thinks is important might not give you what you need: “Can you also give me feedback on my timing, as I particularly wanted to improve that?”
  • Consider and decide – don't let feedback fester or fade; consciously decide if you are going to do anything, change anything, improve anything
  • Offer sincere thanks  – which isn't always easy... but feedback is important, and isn't always easy to give, so say 'thank you'

Slide Material

Conflict at Work
  • Conflict is typically triggered when one individual starts using defend-attack behaviours
  • Conflict continues when a spiral of retaliatory defend-attack behaviours arises
  • Conflict typically involves
    1.  a breakdown in communication
    2.  an emotional component
    3.  an underlying issue or cause
  • All three aspects need to be tackled 

Facilitators introduction (for following slides)

3 Greeks & 3 Sheep & Ratios
  • There are various models of influencing and conflict resolution
  • You need to choose the right tools for each job
  • Every conflict is different and every problem is different
  • We are going to consider three very different models, some simple perspectives, others actual techniques.

Slide Material

The Three Greeks 
  • Ethos: involves personal credibility, and includes managing your non-verbal communication, managing your own feelings, and having a positive outlook.
  • Pathos: involves empathy, and includes questioning skills, and understanding others' points of view and values.
  • Logos: involves rational argument and presenting clear simple reasons for solutions

Slide Material

The Three Greeks 
  • Of course, people are different
  • On average, however, senior teachers tend to over-emphasize Logos when seeking to convince others, and neglect both Ethos and (particularly) Pathos
  • In general, people tend to 'buy' an idea or proposal based on emotion, and then justify their decision using fact and logic
  • All three aspects need to be considered and balanced

Slide material

The Three Sheep (It's all about EWE)
  • This technique is used to break an Attack-Defend spiral, where parties are reluctant to engage, and may view any intervention as hostile
  • May need to repeat the EWE loop at least three times, rewording/paraphrasing each time:
    • E = Empathy (I sympathise)
    • W = Weakness (I am not a threat)
    • E = Engagement Suggestions (We'll help each other)
  • The EWE loop is followed by Engagement to allow the problem to be solved

Slide material

The Three Sheep Technique
  • If someone is in a dark cave, you may need to go in there to lead them out....
  • Move repeatedly from emotion towards logic
  • Speak slowly with a low tone
  • Precede every proposal with a statement of support, and an indication of openness.
  • Start by assuming that the other person
    • thinks that you don't understand or appreciate them
    • thinks that YOU think that you have all the answers

Slide material

Three Sheep Example (Empathy, Weakness, Engagement x 3)
  • Sheep 1: “I can see you're upset”  “I don't have all the answers” “let's spend some time talking about possible next steps”
  • Sheep 2: “I think it must have been a difficult time for your department” “I haven't got to know all the people involved” “maybe we could set a date to discuss things”
  • Sheep 3: “I feel you've had a tough time” “I can't say I can wave a magic wand” “we will meet next Tuesday and come up with options to evaluate”
  • and so on...

Closing facilitator's comments (regarding previous slides)


… this is skills training, so we have broken it down into tiny-steps, and...
… we've simplified the examples to make them easy to understand, but...
… in practice, as your skills develop, you should not act in such a formulaic way

Opening facilitator's comments (regarding following slides)

  • The three sheep model involves repeating EWE at least three times
  • The idea is to ensure the mood is receptive before problem solving
  • The final E - engagement - needs to be done correctly to be effective

Slide material

  • Step 1 - Investigation: ask questions to establish the each person's perceptions of the conflict; restating, paraphrasing and summarising their views.
  • Step 2 - Analysis: understand the true root cause of the conflict, and each person's perception of the type of problem involved eg
    • a clash of values
    • judgement of ability
    • task-related ideas, beliefs and standards
  • Step 3 – Evidence: establish and agree whether the root cause is factual or perceptual, and what evidence supports any perceptions. Seek agreement or acknowledgement.
  • Step 4 – Problem-Solving: emphasize that Win-Lose is not an option, then engage in joint problem solving.

Slide material

Interpersonal Communication
  • People talk and people listen
  • Others judge us based on how we listen
    • Active listening
  • Others also judge us on how we talk and what we say
  • “What we say” is actually “what we do” - it demonstrates our interpersonal behaviours (see next slide)
  • There is no single 'right' way to talk, or 'right' thing to say, but the mixture is vital

Slide material

The Perfect Mix

35% Giving Information
20% Seeking Information
15% Proposing
10% Reacting
5% Testing understanding
5% Summarising
5% Building
5% Structuring & Bringing In

Facilitators script (on previous slide)

What we say is what we do
  • Make sure that learners understand what verbal communication behaviours are
  • Talk about the difference between high-level behaviours (eg 'sarcasm', 'influencing', 'flattery' 'negotiating') and low level behaviours ('giving information', 'testing understanding')
  • High level behaviours are made up of low level behaviours, and low level behaviours are made up of 1) talking, 2) listening 3) other non verbal.
  • The 'perfect mix' material – the next section - is all about talking, what we say.
  • Use the phrases  'what we say is what we do', 'everything means something' and 'there's no such thing as 'just saying'

Handout text

The Perfect Mix vs the Everyday Mix
  • 35% Giving Information – may seem a lot, but 40-60% is more normal in group engagement
  • 20% Seeking Information – in everyday behaviour 10% is more usual. In general, the person asking the questions tends to control an interaction, and seeking information is partly a control behaviour
  • 15% Proposing – varies depending on creativity; just as its effectiveness varies depending on the quality of ideas.
  • 10% Reacting – 10% is about the norm. Low Reaction is a key concept
  • 5% Testing understanding and 5% Summarising – are both keys to active listening and are typically under-used.
  • 5% Building – is generally underused, and is frequently a difficult behaviour to develop.
  • 5% Structuring & Bringing In – managers tend to over-use structuring and under-use bringing-in; shutting-out is a common (mis-)management behaviour.

What we say is what we do
  • Initiating:
    • Structuring – controlling a process or a meeting
    • Proposing – putting forward new suggestions, ideas, or actions
    • Building – extending or developing an existing proposal
  • Reacting:
    • Supporting – conscious and direct declaration of support for a person or their proposals
    • Disagreeing – conscious, direct and reasoned disagreement or criticism
    • Defending-Attacking – criticism of others' ideas and defending one's own based on emotional or personal prejudice and value judgements
    • Blocking – rejection of others' ideas without logical explanation 
    • Openness (Weakness) – acknowledgement of own shortcomings & admission of mistakes
  • Clarifying:
    • Testing Understanding – ensuring that you have understood someone else's ideas & position
    • Summarising – restating or paraphrasing previous discussions
    • Seeking Information – asking for facts, opinions, clarification
    • Giving Information – offering facts, opinions, clarification
  • Controlling:
    • Shutting Out – seeking to exclude another person's contribution: interrupting, talking over
    • Bringing In – seeking to involve another  person in a (usually group) discussion or process

What we say - Examples
  • Initiating:
    • Structuring – 'We need an agenda'; 'Someone needs to take minutes'
    • Proposing – 'Why don't we teach this via an after-school club?'; 'Maybe school policy could be changed'
    • Building – 'I agree; we could also extend that to Year 9'
  • Reacting:
    • Supporting – 'Yes, let's do it'
    • Disagreeing – 'We don't have the budget, so that's not going to be possible'
    • Defending-Attacking – 'So you're blaming me?'; 'I don't think your team have a clue about budgets'; 'At least my team got their reports out on time'
    • Blocking – 'Not an option'; 'Out of the question' 
    • Openness (Weakness) – 'I'd welcome advice'; 'Sorry – I misunderstood'; 'I've never done budgets before'
  • Clarifying:
    • Testing Understanding – 'So you're saying we increase budget next year – is that right?'
    • Summarising – 'We're all agreed: John will collect the marks and type them up by Friday and I'll talk to the Head tonight'
    • Seeking Information – 'What's the earliest date you can have the coursework ready?' 'What do you think is the next step?'
    • Giving Information – 'I can finish by Tuesday'; 'I know from experience this is a two-person job'
  • Controlling:
    • Shutting Out –  interrupting, talking over, finishing someone's sentence.
    • Bringing In – 'How do MFL handle this, Sandra?'; 'What do you think, John?'

Facilitator's introduction (to following slides)

One of the important ideas about these interpersonal behaviours is (pause) it's not so much how much of each behaviour you display, it's the ratio between them that counts. In other words, you can't look at behaviours in isolation.

Slide material

Push-Pull Ratios
  • If we consider how much of what we say represents which behaviour, we can assess if our style is Push or Pull
  • Those who deal with conflict using Push will tend towards: Proposing, Giving Information, & Shutting Out behaviours
  • Those who deal with conflict using Pull will tend towards: Building, Seeking Information, Testing Understanding, & Bringing In behaviours
  • Key Ratios
    • Proposing vs Building
    • Giving Information vs Seeking Information + Testing Understanding
    • Shutting Out vs Bringing In
  • Ratios of 4:1 indicate a strong 'push' style, 2:1 indicates a 'pull' style
  • Either style, or mix of styles, can work well, in different situations

Slide material

Push-Pull Perils
  • If you know your style you can deal with its risks
  • Apologetic Pushers: if you tend to push, then it is important that your Proposing vs Building ratio is higher than your Giving Information vs Seeking Information ratio. Otherwise you risk people interpreting your instructions as suggestions and your proposals as background
  • Part Pullers: if you tend to pull, then it is important to involve other people in actual decision-making (and not just seeking ideas and checking understanding). Otherwise you risk alienating colleagues who may see you as two-faced or credit-grabbing.

Slide material

  • Low Reaction is a common cause of interpersonal misunderstanding 
  • Those who low-react are typically seen as more negative than those who disagree;
  • Those who low-react may be regarded as emotionally cold or difficult
  • Low Reaction is a common tactic among those who are being sold to – lack of feedback is interpreted as disagreement or disapproval
  • Low Reaction prompts typical behavioural responses:
    • losing the thread, or jumping the script
    • drying up, or varying voice speed-tone
    • over reacting or over emoting
    • giving more information than necessary
  • Low reaction can be countered by questioning, but this can be hampered by anxiety
  • Low reaction can add value in negotiation, but is to be avoided in man-management

Slide material

  • There is no such thing as 'just listening'
  • A common behaviour is you-speak-while-I-listen. This is a conversation without pauses
  • You-speak-while-I-listen is more likely to be You-speak while I-listen-and-evaluate-and-rehearse-response
  • Most of us absorb about 30-50% of what we hear – pauses to digest are vital

Slide material

Perception and Interpretation
  • It is common to receive communication more critically than it was intended.
  • This tendency is highlighted during a conflict, when the recipient may be expecting hostile communication.
  • This means that Testing Understanding and Summarising are key skills.

Slide material

Communicating Ideas
  • Make your contributions short and your behaviour chains clear (see handout) and make one point at a time
  • Use regular pauses (this is a skill to develop)
  • Summarise and test understanding regularly
  • Structure long communications ('tell 'em what yer gonna tell 'em, then tell 'em, then tell 'em what ya told 'em')
  • 'Flag' your behaviours eg “I'd like to summarise now”, “I'm going to build on Tom's ideas”, “Can I bring you in here, Maya?”
  • Note: don't flag disagreement – the flag itself distracts from your arguments
  • Identify the latest irritating lead-ins eg 'with all due respect', 'to be fair', 'I'm sorry but..' - and avoid them

Facilitators script (introducing next slides)

Communicating Ideas

Communicating ideas effectively involves behaviour chains - that means that we use the various skills (proposing, building and so on) in a specific order...

Slide material

Communicating Ideas
  • Most of us mentally plan our important communications and the behaviour chains involved
    • eg “I'd like to stop using OCR next year. Can you draw up a list of your OCR courses? We can discuss the implications at next week's meeting.” is a plan for a GI-SI-P chain
  • In practice, we frequently add on thoughts as they occur, resulting in long rambling chains
    • eg “I'd like to stop using OCR next year. There's a few reasons but cost is a major factor. Can you draw up a list of your OCR courses? I must remember to ask Ted as well. This could really help our budget. I think the savings could be significant. We have a meeting next week. Let's discuss it all then.” results in a GI-GI-SI-GI-GI-GI-GI-P chain
  • This results in listeners switching off or interrupting, and they may perceive you as repetitive, boring or vague
  • Again, this means that Testing Understanding and Summarising are key skills
    • eg “Is that OK? (Pause) Clear what you have to do? (Pause) Then we'll discuss your list next week”

Slide material

The First Aid Kit
  • Seek information - in particular, check how the listener is feeling and ask what they're thinking. Try to get on their wavelength
  • Empathise. Put yourself in the listener's place and show that you understand, even if you don't agree
  • Summarise – do this regularly anyway, but also revisit and restate the purpose and objectives of the discussion occasionally
  • Test Understanding – do this two ways; check the listener has understood you, and check that you have understood them.

Slide material

The Listening Clinic 1
  • Five Stages of Active Listening:
    • Attending – look like you're listening
    • Paraphrasing – to ensure understanding
    • Identifying underlying feelings
    • Supporting - (see handout)
    • Responding – acknowledge even if you don't agree

Handout text

Active Listening Exercise

Topics – Choose from...
  • Coursework and controlled assessments
  • Meetings after school, and at other times
  • Parents with unreasonable expectations
  • School leaders who make unreasonable demands
  • Inspections and observations
  • Teamwork and what it means in our school
  • Managing behaviour and leadership support
  • Managing behaviour and parental support
  • Paperwork and forms and data
  • Teaching assistants, good and bad
Active Listening - Supporting
  • Supporting does not imply that you agree with everything you hear
  • It does imply that you focus on the things you DO agree with
  • The listener should...
    1. Start with a belief that the speaker has useful ideas, information, or opinions
    2. Listen carefully
    3. Mention specific points which might be useful
  • Build on those useful elements
  • Examples: “Yes, having fewer meetings makes sense, because...”; “Your last idea is spot on, and if we could  present it to the Head...”

Supporting - Exercise
  • Supporting is particularly valuable if you actually disagree with most of what you hear.
  • Produce a short, supportive response to each of the – mostly negative – messages.
  • Be prepared to role-play your response

Supporting - Examples
  • You tell an NQT that the reports they have written are not detailed enough. They reply “I'll have to do them all again! Why didn't you tell me beforehand what you wanted?”
  • You assign a Teaching Assistant to work with a a particular teacher, who is struggling with a difficult class. They reply “I don't want to work with this class. I just don't get on well with the teacher and we're not a good team.”
  • A teacher in your department was expecting a new laptop, and you have just passed on the news that it won't be ready this term: “It's utterly demotivating to be promised something, and then to find out that it's been delayed. How am I supposed to cope?”

Facilitator's example answer (to preceding exercise)

  • “Yes, it would be better if you knew exactly what's needed. I'll revise a few examples so you can see exactly what I mean.”
  • “You're right, teams don't always like each other, and it is a difficult class. Give it another go, and let me know if there are any specific issues.”
  • “I agree, delays are frustrating. It's too late to change anything this time, but I'll explain that it is unacceptable and ask for assurances about when it will arrive.”

Facilitator's notes/script (on following material)

How to Succeed in Conflict

The secret to success is very, very simple: flexibility.

There are number of ways to behave in a conflict, ways to handle a conflict. One of them is obviously to treat it like a conflict - we call this 'Win-Lose'.  There are four other basic styles - we'll explain them later, but the important thing - the key learning point - is that none of them represents the key to success. They are all right or wrong in particular circumstances. They key to success is flexibility.

We are going to take a survey to establish your preferred style of handling conflict

Why? Because each style has its own weaknesses - that you should be aware of
Each style is also less appropriate in some situations - you need to be aware of this to avoid issues
You are also likely to over-use your preferred style, and most of us could benefit from a little more flexibility in how we behave.

For each scenario:
  • make sure you understand your relationship with the mysterious X
  • decide which two options you are most likely to choose (or least unlikely to choose)
  • make a note of your decision eg 1A & C, 2C & E etc.. You should have 48 answers.
  • mark your answers on the scoresheet
  • add up the totals
The survey should take 20-30 minutes.

In the following group of scenarios, X is undeniably SENIOR to you in the school

1. When X argues with me so much that they become visibly angry with me, then I...
A)   …  say I want to work with X to resolve our differences 
B)   …  try to find some areas where we could work out a compromise
C)   …  try to calm X down in order to preserve our working relationships
D)   …  stand my ground and push even harder to win my point
E)   …  look for a way to end the discussion, and suggest we meet later

2. When I am in conflict with X, and I neither trust or respect them, then I...
A)   …  stress the importance of colleagues working together in harmony
B)   …  try to examine our different viewpoints logically
C)   …  suggest a possible solution somewhere midway between our two positions
D)   …  try to terminate the discussion gracefully and let the matter rest
E)   …  take the offensive and try my hardest to get my own way

3. When X remains adamant on an issue and I think they are completely wrong, then I...
A)   … accept the situation, end the discussion, and turn my attention to other things
B)   … suggest that we discuss other issues where we have more agreement
C)   … try to overcome X's objections by presenting additional facts to support my position
D)   … ask X for further clarity of their position
E)  … suggest aspects of my position that I am willing to sacrifice, if they will do the same

4. When I am in conflict with X and I believe I have a really strong case, then I...
A) …  try to respond, one by one, to each of their concerns
B) …  resolve to stay firm in gaining their acceptance
C) …  make extra efforts to be seen as considerate or helpful in expressing my point of view
D) … ask X what concessions they would make if I made some concessions too
E) … suggest that X may want to ponder for a while, then we could meet and discuss again

5. When X argues with me in a way I find threatening or bullying, then I...
A)  … tell them I am disturbed, and suggest that we resolve our issues by bargaining
B)  … try to ignore it and find a reason to terminate the discussion
C)  … encourage X to share more of their feelings about the matter
D)  … take an even more vigorous approach in an attempt to win
E)  … try to exhibit tolerance to protect the working relationship

6. When X is arguing that they should get the credit and I should get the blame, then I...
A)   … try to hide my irritation, and hope that colleagues will figure out the real truth
B)   … stand up for myself with X, and let colleagues know exactly what's happening
C)   … suggest  solutions which would offer advantages & disadvantages to both of us
D)   … ask myself if continuing the debate is worth the potential damage to our relationship
E)   … work hard to get my concerns listened to so credit/blame get discussed openly

7. When I am in conflict with X – whom I admire and respect -  then I...
A) …  try hard to impress them with the logic and benefits of my ideas
B) …  put myself in X's position so I won't appear pushy or arbitrary
C) …  try hard to avoid creating any real difficulties in our relationship
D) …  identify areas of agreement, and look for alternatives where there is disagreement
E) … stress the importance of finding a solution which is best for the school as a whole

8. When I am in conflict with X and very few people seem to agree with me,  then I...
A)  … aim for a climate where we can examine and understand each other's views
B)  … express willingness to abide by the majority decision
C)  … make extra efforts to smooth over differences
D)  … work hard to convince people using forceful arguments and 'hard sell'
E)  … make it clear that I'm happy to leave the final decision to X

In the following group of scenarios, X is EQUAL in seniority to you in the school

9. When I am in conflict with X and I see them becoming emotionally upset, then I...
A)   … suggest compromises that we could each make in order to reach agreement
B)   … try to smooth things over so we can preserve our working relationship
C)   … suggest that we take a break and discuss the matter another time
D)   … express my continued desire to work with X on resolving our differences
E)   … sense weakness, and keep pushing to get final agreement to my proposals

10. When X – whom I dislike and find unpleasant – disagrees with my point of view, then I...
A) …  argue forcefully to achieve a dominant position so I can overcome X's objections
B) …  encourage X to share their views, so I can try to point out why they're wrong
C) …  try to examine our differences as logically as possible
D) …  seek to avoid contact and further discomfort
E) … stress the importance of working together in as much harmony as possible

11.  When I've explained my ideas, but X opposes me without apparent reason, then I...
A)  … describe my understanding of X's position and how it differs from mine
B)  … tell X they are being obstructive, that I am right and they should accept this
C)  … remind X that each of us may need to give a little so we can reach agreement
D)  … suggest that we move on to issues where we are more in tune
E)  … propose that we involve a third party as a way to resolve differences

12. When I am in conflict with X and most people seem to support my position, then I...
A)   … try to present my point of view in a way that doesn't alienate X
B)   … give X time to think about it, and suggest we discuss things another time
C)   … toughen my position and demand agreement, stressing my wide level of support
D)   … urge X to be a team player and go along with the majority
E)   … stress the importance of a solution which meets everyone's needs

13. When X appears to become offensive and insulting in a conflict, then I...
A) …  avoid further unpleasantness by simply walking away
B) …  encourage X to share and clarity their feelings on the matter 
C) …  express concern, and stress the value of maintaining a sound working relationship
D) … tend to meet fire with fire and display anger when provoked
E) … tell X that I understand that they're upset and offer to resolve matters via bargaining 

14.  When X's proposed solution to a conflict meets all of their needs & none of mine, then I...
A)  … tell X exactly how I feel, and that I expect a more balance proposal immediately
B)  … consider what I'm prepared to sacrifice in the interests of preserving harmony
C)  … display my irritation by keeping completely silent and offering no response
D)  … suggest that we negotiate point-by-point, so I can win as many concessions as I can
E)  … propose that we air our concerns openly so we can use a problem-solving approach

15. When X – whom I like and enjoy working with – strongly opposes my ideas, then I...
A)   … stress the necessity for both of us to figure out and agree a satisfactory solution
B)   … stress the importance of a solution which is in the best interests of the school
C)   … try to appear calm and say that I'd give X's point of view some thought
D)   … would look for ways to avoid creating real difficulties in our relationship
E)   … work hard to impress on X the logic and soundness of my proposals

16. When I am conflict with X and X seems to represent the majority view, then I...
A) …  would dismiss the problem and turn my attentions to other matters
B) … present forceful arguments and lobby to convince others to support me 
C) … seek a climate where we can understand each other's points of view
D) … look for a quick solution which partly satisfies both of us
E) … would give way gracefully as a gesture of goodwill

In the following group of scenarios, you see X as JUNIOR to you in the school staff

17.  When I am in conflict with X and they appear emotional and irrational, then I...
A)  … lower my tone and assure X that I want to understand their point of view
B)  … encourage X to share their feelings so we can find a way to resolve differences
C)  … tell them to concentrate on the topic, and restate the logic of my arguments
D)  … suggest to X that we can discuss this another time
E)  … propose compromises that each of us could make to our positions

18. When X – whom I don't particularly like – disagrees strongly with me, then I...
A)   … try to be patient, end the discussion, and let the problem work itself out
B)   … concede a couple of minor points to get X to agree to my main ideas
C)   … try to present my arguments without hurting X's feelings
D)   … make a point of involving X in working out a mutually acceptable solution
E)   … use my seniority, knowledge and experience to over-ride X's objections

19. When I am conflict with X and X just seems to be being stubborn, then I...
A) … calmly paraphrase X's position and how it differs from mine
B) … leave X alone – they'll see sense in time 
C) … tell X that if they accept a compromise now, we can change things if it doesn't work out.
D) … tell X that I resent unnecessary delay and that I expect them to accept my proposals 
E) … focus attention on the areas where we do agree

20.  When most colleagues support my proposals, but X keeps disagreeing, then I...
A)  … stress the fact that it makes sense to go along with the majority
B)  … emphasize that because my views are correct, they must be accepted
C)  … make an effort to find out X's real underlying reasons for disagreement
D)  … look for ways to present my ideas in a way that won't make X upset
E)  … avoid discussing it and look for easier ways of implementing my proposals

21. When X argues with me in a hostile and disrespectful way, then I...
A)   … tell X I don't like it and that I expect them to change their manner immediately
B)   … tell X that they are becoming emotional and stress that a good relationship is important
C)   … avoid unpleasantness by walking away
D)   … propose that we look for some middle ground that we could both agree on
E)   … stress that I want to understand X's viewpoints so that we can resolve matters

22. When I am conflict with X and X only seems to consider themselves, then I...
A) … try to ignore the selfishness and present additional facts to support my position
B) … encourage X to openly share their reasons so we can resolve our differences
C) … caution X that the school leadership don't approve of selfishness
D) … don't really care as long as I mostly get my way
E) … try to preserve harmony by saying that I can understand X's point of view

23.  When I am in conflict with X – who always appears warm and friendly - then I...
A)  … tell X that I want to work with them to find mutually acceptable solutions
B)  … make great efforts to present a strong, persuasive case to support my position
C)  … do whatever I can to avoid any real tension between us
D)  … make it obvious that I am genuinely considering their point of view
E)  … suggest to X that each of us could give ground a little to reach a compromise

24. When I am in conflict with X, and their arguments reflect the views of most staff, then I...
A)   … try for a quick win by bombarding X with facts and logic
B)   … aim to win as many points as I can by debating and bargaining each in turn
C)   … tell X that I will agree with them if it makes the majority happy
D)   … try to establish a problem solving approach to explore all the different viewpoints
E)   … terminate the discussion and leave the matter unresolved until you have more support

Scorecard for conflict resolution assessment (above)

Mark scores in the appropriate white square. For example, if you answered C for question 1, you would put a tick in the SA column, row 1
You should only write on the white squares...

Scorecard 1 - Questions 1-8 - Conflict With Those More Senior

Scorecard 2 - Questions 9-16 - Conflict With Your Peers - Those you feel are roughly as senior as you are in the school

Scorecard 3 - Questions 17-23 - Conflict With Your Peers - Those you feel are roughly as senior as you are in the school

Slide Material

The Five Styles of Handling Conflict
  • Avoiding-Withdrawing (AW)
  • Smoothing-Accommodating (SA)
  • Win-Lose (W-L)
  • Compromising (Co)
  • Problem-Solving (P-S)
Obviously, in a school context, 'problem solving' sounds much nicer than 'win-lose' – and it may be generally preferable – but in some situations 'win-lose' may be absolutely the right style.

Slide Material

The Five Styles of Handling Conflict
  • Avoiding-Withdrawing (AW)
  • Smoothing-Accommodating (SA)
  • Win-Lose (W-L)
  • Compromising (Co)
  • Problem-Solving (P-S)
The questionnaire identifies which Styles are your preferred styles. It's reasonable that this is different for dealing with those higher up the school hierarchy, for dealing with equals, and for dealing with those less senior.

A score of 10 is 'average', over 15 is a strong preference, less than 5 is little-used. 

Facilitators script on the quiz (if needed)

There are no right answers to the quiz itself - no 'correct' ways to handle the scenarios. Some teachers do seem to have trouble with this, and may argue that some options are 'wrong'.  Point out:
  • no information was given on whether 'I' was right or wrong, no facts or evidence were offered, no information was given on whether 'X' was genuinely reasonable or unreasonable, no information was given regarding the urgency or importance of the conflict, no information was given about the importance of the working relationships
  • all of that had to be assumed by the learners, and their answers are based on what they read into the questions
Stress that each of the conflict-handling styles is the best style in some situations. This will be explained in following slides

Make sure everyone understands that a professional should be able to use ANY of these approaches to handle conflict, if the situation demands it.

Slide material

Style of Handling Conflict: Avoiding - Delaying
  • What happens when it is used:
    • a teacher tries to resolve a conflict by refusing to address it or acknowledge it. May result in a 'lose' in a win-lose. 
  • When it is appropriate:
    • when the issue is trivial and time-consuming
    • when the conflict is too damaging to staff relationships and/or the timing is clearly wrong
    • when you genuinely cannot win.
  • When it is not appropriate:
    • when the issue is important, or likely to re-emerge
    • when the approach is largely based on a personal procrastination trait

Slide material

You should consider Avoiding-Delaying when...

… the issue just isn't worth the time it would take to debate, or...
… it's too soon – you need to get your act together before finalising your position, or...
… you instinctively feel that the conflict would be irredeemably bad for the school; or...
… the power dynamics are stacked against you; or...
… you aren't the best person in the school to get drawn into the conflict. 

Slide material

Style of Handling Conflict: Smoothing-Accommodating

  • What happens when it is used:
    • Personal differences are played down and surface harmony exists
    • May result in a lose in a win-lose if you're not prepared to accept the outcome.
    • If the underlying issue is suppressed, resentment and defensiveness may remain 
  • When it is appropriate:
    • When the issue is trivial and time-consuming
    • When the preservation of good relations is more important than the issue itself & when you need to demonstrate reasonableness & goodwill
    • When you need to store brownie points for later
    • When you cannot win or when you suspect that you are wrong
  • When it is not appropriate:
    • When an important issue is being evaded
    • When the approach is largely based on a personal avoid-confrontation trait
    • When others are ready and willing to tackle real issues

Slide material

You should consider Smoothing-Accommodating when...

… it is more important – to yourself or to the school – to maintain harmony in your working relationships, than it is to get what you want.
… your personal emotional investment isn't that high, and the issue involved really doesn't matter that much to you, compared to other matters.
… you instinctively feel that cutting your losses and moving on is the best thing to do; or...
… you logically feel that you might be 'on a loser', either because you have changed your views, or because you are probably going to lose anyway.

Slide material

Style of Handling Conflict: Win-Lose
  • What happens when it is used:
    • A conflict is settled conclusively with a clear outcome; usually based on seniority-authority, or on power-influence, or on majority-popularity
    • The outcome is win-lose if one party regards it as an irrevocable defeat
    • May result in resentment or sabotage of future plans
  • When it is appropriate:
    • When this approach has been agreed
    • When time is short and the issue is urgent
    • When an outcome is necessary but highly unpopular
    • When one party is right without doubt, yet cannot convince others
    • When the broader context demands a directive management style
    • When no other option exists
  • When it is not appropriate:
    • When the 'losers' have no way of expressing their dissatisfaction
    • When it is not necessary

Slide material

You should consider Win-Lose when...

… you won't have to deal with the other person in the future
… speed and decisiveness are critical 
… the situation in the school demands directive management.

Slide material

Style of Handling Conflict: Compromising
  • What happens when it is used:
    • Each party gives up something in order to meet midway
    • Generally results in an expedient & acceptable solution
    • May result in a mish-mash of incompatible elements
  • When it is appropriate:
    • Where relationships are as important as goals
    • When both parties have equal power but incompatible goals
    • When the issue is complex, time is short, and a temporary agreement works
    • When both parties have things they can live without
    • When resources are limited and must be allocated
    • When a win-lose approach would destroy harmony
  • When it is not appropriate:
    • When the compromise solution is ineffective
    • When longer-term commitment of everyone can't be relied on

Slide material

You should consider Compromising when...

… time is key factor and this conflict is preventing you from tackling other issues;
… you have tried other strategies without success;
… a solution needs to be found quickly, even if it is temporary;
… you have a reasonably strong negotiating position ie you have things to trade.

Slide material

Style of Handling Conflict: Problem-Solving
  • What happens when it is used:
    • Everyone's values and objectives are recognised and understood
    • Generally results in the best available solution
    • Longer-term benefits include a climate of co-operation
  • When it is appropriate:
    • When time is available, and...
    • When everyone understands the process
  • When it is not appropriate:
    • When time is short
    • When key parties do not understand or accept the process
    • When the broader context is hostile

Slide material

You should consider Problem-Solving when...

… the outcome of the conflict matters strongly to you, but good working relationships are important to you as well
… a successful outcome needs commitment from others, and you don't have formal authority
… you tend towards creativity, and understand the processes involved well.

Slide material

The Bigger Picture
  • Conflicts do not happen in a vacuum
  • It is very possible to have a festering conflict about the school play at the same time as an Ofsted inspection while budgets are being cut and redundancies considered
  • Make sure that your chosen conflict style is compatible with the bigger context and compatible with your management style as a whole

Slide material

Conflict-Style vs Management Style

Blake & Mouton

Facilitators script on previous slide (only if the learners have management training)

You may have previously identified your preferred management style (using Blake & Mouton's model). It is usually a good idea to adopt a conflict handling style which is consistent with your management style.

Handout Text

Exercise on Perceptions

Choose a current disagreement or conflict involving you and another individual (adult) in the school. The other person is 'X' in the steps below.

1a. How would you summarise the situation?
1b. How might X summarise the situation?
2a. As you see them, what are the central points?
2b. As X sees them, what are the key points?
3a. How do you see yourself?
3b. How might X see you?
4a. What's your perception of X?

5b. How does X think you see them?
6a. How might this conflict look to an independent outsider?

Slide handout

Conflict Dynamics
  • Conflicts are rarely between two equals, and it is important to understand the relative strengths of you and X
  • Position Y (you) and X using the chart on the handout
  • Consider whether (a) your tactics and (b) your communication style are compatible with the dynamics

Slide handout

Conflict Dynamics

Slide handout

Evaluating a Conflict
  • What are your goals?
  • What are your priorities?
    • essential?
    • desirable?
    • marginal?
  • How high is the risk of losing? of winning but failing?
  • In what ways can the conflict be progressed/resolved?
  • How big are the benefits of success?

Slide handout

Analysing How to Deal with a Conflict
  • What style (PS, W-L, etc) is best? Most practical?
  • What do you need to actually do?
  • What do you plan to achieve? How will you know if you've achieved it?
  • What are the main factors which will help you in resolving the conflict?
  • What are the main factors which will hinder you in resolving the conflict?
  • What can you do to minimise the risk of failure in resolving the conflict?

Facilitator's script (for following slides)

There are no difficult people
  • Think of some adult who you think is "difficult"
  • Maybe they don't have great people skills... or maybe it's just you - maybe other people think they're fine... Either way, everything seems that little bit harder for you when they're involved. 
  • In schools, we can't choose who we work with, and we certainly can't choose our students or their parents. 
  • We just need to find a way to deal with them (the adults, that is...)

  • Some teachers may confuse cock-ups with real conflict.
  • The response to a genuine cock-up is a genuine apology, and conflict management techniques are not really relevant.
  • It's important to make sure the cock-up doesn't recur, though..

  • Note: in the following slides,  DM = difficult messages, DP= difficult people, DC=difficult conversation

Slide material

Having Difficult Conversations

There may not be any really difficult people (DP), but there are certainly difficult messages (DM) -  communication which requires careful thought before responding

Always try to respond orally to a DM – e-mail and text messages just add to the problem

Slide material

Five Steps Before a Difficult Conversation

1.  Suspend judgement and try to have a positive perspective until you find out the facts
2.  Get as much clarity and evidence about the facts of the specific DM as you can.
3.  Take an audit of your own feelings and reactions; if necessary, take time to cool off
4.  Try to view the big picture, any context, history or motivation which has led to the DM. Ask questions and try for differing opinions
5.  Prepare to respond assertively

Slide material

Five Steps In Having A Difficult Conversation
  1. Explore the DP's position first. Listen without becoming emotional, defensive or judgemental. Let the DP explain their position completely – only respond to clarify or summarise.
  2. State your own position: calmly, briefly, clearly and patiently.
  3. Develop a statement of the problem which accurately reflects both your interpretation and that of the DP. If this isn't possible, seek more facts and re-engage later. 
  4. Brainstorm options. Generate a reasonable list of alternative options; uncritically and creatively
  5. Ask which option/s the DP prefers. Comment constructively. Decide who does what and agree when to review progress.

Facilitator script (on following slides)

Specific Types
  • We've looked at being assertive & you'll have realised that many people aren't assertive
  • Everyone is different, everyone is individual, but we can recognise some types of specific non-assertive behaviour and consider how to deal with it.
  • The learning point here is that the usual rules don't apply. Usually in conflicts we consider feelings before we tackle facts, but if those 'feelings' are actually a consistent behaviour pattern, then surfacing them and tackling them doesn't do much good. With these people, we need to focus on the facts.
  • Specifically:
    • Victims, Complainers and Blamers
    • Bullies

Slide material

Victims, Complainers and Blamers
  • Of course there are people who are genuine victims, people with real complaints, and people who actually have been unjustly accused..
  • … but there are also people who repeatedly, unreasonably or persistently appear to be victims, complainers and blamers.
  • Always empathise, but...
  • If the problem is not directly connected to you, do not get drawn into other people's conflict – a complainer will always have some complaint.
  • If the 'problem' is clearly in your back-yard, focus on the facts

Slide material

  • Physical bullying (of adults) is, thankfully, rare in UK schools
  • Professional bullying should be dealt with with Union involvement
  • However, there are sometimes instances of borderline-bullying which can't be tackled easily. This usually involves someone who communicates an acceptable message in an unacceptable way.
  • The basic behaviours are usually the result of someone who..
    • has become accustomed to getting their own way, or
    • has a fear of being shown to be wrong...
    • has no desire to explore issues when win-lose is an apparently easy option
  • There are two opposite techniques for dealing with this; if one doesn't work, try the other...

Slide material

Bullies – The Matching Technique
  • Always separate the content of X's message from the emotional tone
  • If the content is unacceptable, take management or Union advice, and make sure action results.
  • If it is the tone which is unacceptable...
    • Respond by sensibly matching the X's tone, tempo and energy level eg if the bully is loud, intense and agitated, then respond in a loud, intense and animated way
    • Pace and Match X for a brief time, then model a switch to a more normal tone, ending your response in a calm and friendly way.

Slide material

Bullies – The Calm Technique
  • Listen in silence while X talks, keeping facial expression neutral
  • Allow a significant pause after X finishes speaking, and ensure that you have complete emotional control
  • Respond in a tone which is marginally slower and quieter than your normal voice, and ensure that your body language is consistent: open, friendly, calm.

Slide material

Activity: Read and Respond
  • Learners should work in pairs and practice both techniques, assuming that they're dealing with a colleague of equal seniority.
  • Learner A should read out the bullying message (see handout), in character.
  • Learner B should respond, using one of the techniques.
  • Learner A should then offer brief feedback
(if the learners have real-life examples, they're better)

Handout text

Example Text for Bullying Activity
  • Oh, lord. What do you want NOW? Can't you see I'm busy? I've got my own problems - I don't have time to sort your lessons out too. Can't I just get my work done in peace? 
(assume X has shared a lesson plan with you which doesn't make sense, and you need it explained)
  • What is this junk you've done? Do you call this a report? It's all waffle and excuses and parents won't understand a word. You'll have to do it again.. and do it properly this time. I'm not your mother, I shouldn't have to wipe your nose.
(assume you have written a student report exactly in line with school standards and you haven't asked for help)
  • I'm sick, sick, sick of this. Her lady-ship wants the filing cabinet tidied. I've got too much on. You're sitting around doing nothing, like you owned the place. You'll have to do it.
(assume that X has misfiled a number of exam papers and that you're busy too)
  • This makes me angry. They've put me in Room 3 tomorrow and I effing hate that place. Hate it. You're in Room 4 aren't you, well aren't you? We can switch then. You don't care where you work, and I do. 
(assume that you would much rather teach in Room 4)