CONFLICT AVOIDANCE What is conflict? The dictionary says that it is 1competitive or opposing action of incompatibles; 2to show antagonism of irreconcilability. In other words it’s usually a fight between two people who don’t get along for one reason or another. Causes of conflict: I will speak about what I have experienced. • My first conflict was with someone who used to be a friend. We have known each other a few years. We used to hang out in the halls at school together with a group of other friends and clown on each other and clown on other people who passed by.
This somewhat made people think that we were a “bad group of kids”. We said they also might think that because we were mostly a minority group (Black and Hispanic with one or two white friends with us). None of us were doing much work or any sports in school. I always played sports throughout grade school but because of my grades I wasn’t eligible so I guess I was bored. My mom started telling me to get my grades up so that I could play again because she knew that I needed something to keep me focused on school. So with support from my principle and the football coaches I got my grades up and I became eligible.
That was the best feeling; being able to play again. I still kept my friends but it started to get harder to keep up with them, school, football, and then track. My coaches, my principle and my mom told me that I needed to break away from that group and concentrate on my school work if I wanted to keep playing sports. I admit that when I did break away and start hanging out with different guys (football players and track team) I saw that we had more in common. Breaking away started tension with my first group of friends and me. They started saying that I thought that I was too good to hang out with them anymore.
One of their moms told me that I was not “all that”. I even tried to explain to them but that didn’t do any good. All through the school year the tension got worse. I wondered if my mom, or my coaches, or my principle knew this might happen, if they did they never told me. One day this group performed a step at our assembly. Someone in the group messed up and all the students laughed; but my friends and I were singled out by the group and they started to throw things at us. After we left the assembly they confronted us and asked why we were laughing at them. I told them everyone aughed but all that mattered to them is that we laughed. I turned away but one of my friends was still inside arguing with one of them. I went back inside to get my friend and to cool the situation down but it soon got out of hand and a fight started. We never landed any punches because one of the teachers was between us. The teacher said that he told us to break it up; if he did I didn’t hear him. I turned and walked away but one of the other guys in the group ran after me. I heard someone call my name and tell me to look out. I turned just as the guy swung at me.
I ducked down and punched him and the fight was on. o Avoidance: 1If I had found a better way to get my work done in school, play sports and hang out with them (because, “We minorities have to stick together,” one of their moms said to me); maybe the tension would not have been there. 2If I had told the principle or the coaches about the tension; maybe something could have been done (I doubt it because the guys hadn’t done anything). 3If, as my mom said, I had not gone back inside to get my friend I wouldn’t have been in it (but I was trying to keep my friend out of trouble). If I had listened to the teacher when he told us to break it up it might have ended then. 5If I had not defended myself and allowed the guy to punch me and do nothing (then what). • My second conflict was with another guy from this same group. One of them came up to me before my track practice and said, “I hear you want to fight me. ” This is the first time that I had heard of this. I said, “No, I don’t want to fight you. ” It went back and forth like that until he finally said, “Well, we’re going to fight whether you want to or not. All I could think was, “This makes no sense! ” I did not want any more trouble. I had just come back from court THAT MORNING for the other issue with his buddies. And all I had been told was, “You do not fight AT SCHOOL. ” I knew then that the only way to get him to leave me alone was to fight him. And the only way to do that and not get in trouble was to fight him AWAY FROM SCHOOL (wrong). I never knew that two guys fist fighting was a crime. No guns, no knives, no sticks; just our fists…nobody else was involved, just us.
Well, I found out that it is against the law, and because we decided at school to fight but went somewhere else it was still a school issue. How were we supposed to know that? I’ve been in school for twelve years and I have never been told this (my mom didn’t know either). The next day I see on the school film that his buddy, that I had defended myself against before was giving him a handshake and then I knew that I had been setup. Now I’m suspended and will have to plead my case to the school district next week; all because I saw no other way out. Avoidance: 1If I had talked to the coaches during track practice, but I really didn’t think anything of it (besides he hadn’t done anything). By the time he came up on me after practice, the coaches were gone. 2If I had just gone home and told my mom what happened (she would have told someone or made me tell someone). 3If I had just let him punch me and do nothing and not defended myself (because we would fight whether I wanted to or not) then I suppose everything would have been okay. Parents, teachers and just adults tell us to walk away, walk away…but how do we do that? They tell us to do it but they don’t tell us how.
I know the physical part…turn around and walk away (tried that, didn’t work), but what about the mental part; the psychological part? You walk away, you’re a punk, weak, sissy, wimp, chump; you tell someone, you’re a snitch, 5/0, scared; you stand up and defend yourself, you’re suspended, expelled, sent to juvenile detention. So what do we do and how do we do it? No matter what caused the fighting the same penalty is used for both involved. I guess the teachers or the schools don’t have time to sit down with the students and find out what the issues are so they just let the courts handle it.
Then we’re all made to look like criminals. I know if there are weapons involved then it should be a court issue. My grandma calls it anger…well yeah, I’ll get angry at anybody who is going to fight me because they don’t like me, whether I want to or not. It’s called standing up for yourself, or being your brother’s keeper. We get tools in church, the bible. We get tools in school, books and teachers. We get tools at work, safety stuff, training on how to be safe, and training on harassment (my mom job). What tools do we get to help us avoid conflict?
We get three words…”just walk away”. Parents, teachers, and just adults ask what happened, but they don’t usually ask why or try to find out why it happened and what needs to be done so that it doesn’t happen again. Suspending, expelling, sending to juvenile detention does not make the tension go away and it does not get to the cause of the problem. I understand that there needs to be punishment, but punishing and still not trying to find out the cause is not helping. If you don’t know what the issue is you won’t prevent it you will just keep reacting to it every time it happens.
If no one cares why it happens then the only thing that matters is that the one who gets the upper hand wins, because you’ll both get the same punishment. So in my second conflict I knew that if he came at me another day, in the school hallway, I would be in trouble no matter how, no matter why it happened. My idea to help prevent it: We should get any body that has some type of issue with each other and have them sit together in a room with a mediator (my mom and dad used a mediator when they got divorced). It probably needs to be a parent whose kid is not in the room. Not a teacher, well maybe a teacher that the students like.
I think a parent because there would be more respect for a parent and they would probably open up more (maybe). This mediator could ask the questions or just let the two of them talk about how they feel about each other. Once it’s out in the open they can work on the issues. I’m not saying that it would work every time; and I’m not saying that they would come out of there the best of friends but you can offend someone and not even know it until it is too late. This is what I would have done with my ex-friends because I really didn’t know what the issues were between us and I still don’t.