Conflict is generally most beneficial when the emphasis is on issues and problem-solving, and most detrimental when focused on personalities and competition. If fair rules of conflict are followed in combination with flexibility, a concern for others and an emphasis on finding solutions, conflict can be beneficial. The goal of conflict management is to minimize the occurrence and escalation of harmful conflict while allowing the useful forms of conflict to unfold.
How can this goal be achieved? Some behavioral responses to conflict, whether occurring at the earliest stages or after the conflict develops, can be thought of as constructive. These constructive responses have the effect of not escalating the conflict further. They tend to reduce the tension and keep the conflict focused on ideas rather than personalities. Destructive responses, on the other hand, tend to make things worse; they do little to reduce the conflict and allow it to focus on personalities. If conflict can be thought of as a fire, then constructive responses help put the fire out, while destructive responses fan the flames. Obviously, it is better to respond to conflict with constructive rather than destructive responses.
It is also useful to view responses to conflict not simply as constructive or destructive, but as differing in terms of how active or passive they are. Active responses are those in which the individual takes some overt action in response to the conflict or provocation. Such responses can be either constructive or destructive; what makes them active is that they require some overt effort on the part of the individual.
During Conflict remind yourself:
Playback - Walk the group through scenarios where they are an outsider observing or the behavior is happening to them. Freeze scenes to freeze the action and discuss what is happening. Give students the opportunity to step into the role of the observer or one of the characters in conflict.
· Scenarios – Repeat the exercise above across several different pre-chosen and scripted scenarios.
1. Comic Book Ad Exec - We need a new hero. Someone new, that noone has ever seen before. But what kind of hero - what could their power be? [tap a kid, wait for answer, repeat it and go nuts with cheering] Yes, they _____, and they also [tap another kid, cheer]. So they ___ & ______ but what could we call them? [tap a kid, cheer] Yes - of course, _____. So they are named ________ and their powers are _______ & _________. So what shoud we call the comic book? [tap, cheer]. Yes, and we should make it a movie - who could play them in the movie [tap, cheer]. Absolutely - we have (title of the book/movie) featuring (the name of the hero) who has the powers of (name them) and the movie will star (name them). YES! This will be a huge hit - you save the day! [lead a giant cheer and guide them back their seats].
The key to conflict resolution is creating solutions to the problem. This could involved brainstorming to generate new ideas, devising creative responses to the conflict, or engaging others in the search for solutions. Although creating and agreeing on solutions requires time, energy and the cooperation of the other party, the benefits of conflict resolution for all involved and the organization as a whole are worth the efforts.
Before starting the conflict resolution process, however, it is necessary to establish the root of the conflict. That is, what are the underlying (usually unmentioned issues) issues at the center of the storm. One’s need for power, control, self-esteem, or revenge are often the real issues. One of the first steps then to conflict resolution us understanding what motivates one’s self as well as others and uncovering alternative ways to meet needs.
When you arrive at the school greet the admin staff & the contact person who hired FST (often
a rep of a parent committee). Find out if there are any pressing issues at the school around
bulling and ask what language, if any, they use to discuss bullying. What style of school is
this? Responsive classroom? Traditional authoritarian setting (children are at individual desks,
are only called upon to answer questions rather than offer ideas)? Montessori? Find out the
philosophy or mission of the school
Room set up: Have the students sit on the floor leaving enough room for you all the play. Try
to ensure the students are looking just at your playing area (avoid having windows behind you,
make sure they are not leaning on anything like cabinets that could distract them). Introduce
yourself to the classroom teachers as they come in.
Step 1: Into to Improv
Have someone (principal, parent rep or classroom teacher) intro you all. If they don’t know
what to say have them say something like “We are very lucky to have a group of actors from
FST who are here today to talk to us about something very serious, bulllying”.
Come out and welcome them: We are from FST! I’m _____ & this is _____ we
are performers at the FST theater in Cambridge. We are comedians who perform
improvisation. Has anyone here ever heard of improvisation?
Let the kids give you a quick definition
That’s right - we make it up as we go along, and in order to do that we’ll need your help.
Throughout our time together today we are going to be coming to you for suggestions, when
we do just raise your hand and we’ll call on the folks who are being polite and great listeners.
Let’s try it: What did you have for breakfast today (call on 3-5 kids who are quite & raising their
hands). Great, now another one: What is your name? (call on as many kids as you want).
Awesome - most of those answers were different, and all of them are right - we could use any
of those things to inspire our scenes. At other times during our time together today we will
need volunteers to come up here and help out. If you want to come up just raise your hand and
we will get to as many of you as we can. So to get started, we want to show you how improv
works. We’re going to do some scenes for you, hopefully they’ll be funny so feel free to laugh!
To inspire our scenes tell me something someone did last night at home (or whatever you want
to get as an input).
Do a series of open scenes - about 3-5 scenes. They should be fast like 10 scenes about and
go out on a laugh. These are NOT about bullying, they are about showing them how improv
works and getting us street cred with the kids. Be funny.
Call scene and then recap: Awesome! Whenever we do shows people always ask if it is really
made up. They ask, “how can you do that with no script? How does it make sense?”. The
reason we can do that is because we have agreed to work as a team - we have agreed to
support one another. Who can tell me what support is?
Get definition of support. We are leading them from small answers to broader ones. Eventually
we want to recap by re-stating their correct answers (helping one another, being a good friend,
being there for someone - whatever they say) and then summing it up by saying: Support is
all of those things, it is about being kind, and respectful. The reason improv works is that
we agree to support one another. We agree to support each other as people, support
each other’s differences, and to support each other’s ideas. It works for improv, and we
believe that it can work here. If you all agree to support one another - to be kind and respectful
to one another - then this behavior we call bullying won’t have a chance to start.
So who can tell me what bullying is?
Get definition of bullying. Again, start small and get broader. Sum up by recapping their
answers (picking on people, hurting people’s feelings, hurting someone, being mean, whatever
they say) and then say: Exactly, bulling is all of those things, and all of it is about two
things, cruelty and power. Bullying is about being cruel on purpose, and wanting to have all
the power in a situation. It is about being mean, knowing you are being mean, and doing it even
though you know you shouldn’t.
Optional exercise: Have the kids stand up. Ask them to move to the left side of the room if
they’ve ever felt bullied. Ask them to move to the right side of the room if they ever bullied
someone. If nobody moves to the side of folks who have bullied talk about that. So some of
you feel like you’ve been picked on - we know it’s happening, but nobody thinks they are the
ones doing it - sometimes we don’t even realize we’re the problem, but we know it is coming
from somewhere. If someone is brave enough to go over to that side, praise them for being that
honest, and then say - there are much more of you on the other side of the room. Look at that.
Those of you over here should realize that you aren’t alone, and that you have lots of people
who can help you. And if you are the person on the “bullying” side, realize how it feels to have
all those ohter people over there, wouldn’t it be better to be on that side, the side where people
are supporting one another and helping each other out?
Today we want to talk about how each of you can choose today to support one another
and to make a choice to support kindness and respect instead of cruelty.
Step 2: Show them bullying:
Have any of you ever felt like you were being bullied? I know I have (raise your hand). It
doesn’t feel good does it? We want to show you what it looks like when someone is getting
bullied. This isn’t fun for us, or funny, but we think its important. So I need my friend ______
to agree to be picked on right now. Now, in real life we are all friends, but for these next few
minutes I am going to do our best to make my friend feel terrible. We are actors, but we are
doing this for real. Here we go. [play this as real as you can without scaring the kids. You don’t
want to use bad words but you do need to make this real for the kids, really let into the person
you are picking on. The idea is to make everyone feel uncomfortable. Don’t yell, but rather be
mean, you can even get physical like shoving if you think the kids can handle it - like for older
grades. When you have heightened enough that you feel it is over (the person will usually have
given up talking and look really desperate by then) call the scene. [I usually hug it out then]
How does everyone feel? Does that feel good? I know I don’t feel good. [ask the person who
was picked on how they feel].
What did you all notice about them? How did they change during that scene?
[let the kids tell you a few things - they looked sad, they looked scared, etc. then ask them to
explain how we could tell they were feeling that way - how did they LOOK? point out how they
changed physically - how they moved differently, etc.]
So now we know what it looks like when someone is being bullied. So if you see that
happening in your classroom, at recess, wherever you are - you know someone is in
trouble. What can you do to support that person?
[lead the kids to three answers: Go over there and stick up for your friend, Go over there and
get your friend and walk away, Get a grownup]
That’s right - you can support your friend - you can be a good friend - by doing one of
three things: Walk over and defend them - hey, leave my friend alone. You can walk over
and help them move away - say “Do you want to come over here and play”, and if it looks really
serious, or if folks are getting physical Get a grownup right away.
What could the person do that is getting bullied? My friend just stood here - why? [ask the
person you just picked on]. Sometimes people are too scared to move, or they think it won’t
help to walk way. What could you do if this is happening to you?
[ask the kids, let them give ideas leading to three key things: Say something (defend yourself),
walk away, get a grownup]
That’s right - there are 3 simple things you can do if you are in that situation: The first
one is Say Something. There is research that says that more than 50% of kids who were
picking on someone say they didn’t know they were hurting someone’s feelings. More
than half of the kids that pick on other kids don’t realize they are doing it. That means than
more that half the time, if you just say something, it will stop. More than half the time just saying
something like, “I don’t like that” or “You’re hurting my feelings” will stop it right there.
If that doesn’t work - walk away. I know it’s hard, and it takes a lot of courage to walk
away, but it is the next best step.
And if that still doesn’t work, get a grownup. Look around. The grownups in this room are
here to keep you safe. They want you to feel safe, secure and comfortable while you are here.
If you don’t feel that way, tell them. They are on your team and they can help.
Step 3: Let them Stop the Bullying:
So now we know what bullying looks like and we have some simple things we can do if
it happens. So I need some help. I need one person to come up here and help us out.
[pick a grown up for this first one - a teacher or parent in the room so they can demonstrate for
the kids how this should go - then we can use a kid next time].
Great - what’s your name? Okay, my friend & I are going to do a scene, and when you feel
like their behavior has crossed a line - has become bullying - I need you to stop them by
clapping really loud [demonstrate]. Can you try that for me? Awesome. So when you stop
them, my friends will have to make a new choice, and I’ll help you out if you need it. To get
them started what is something that you love to do in school [ask the crowd. Start the scene.
This is played like Shoulda Said. The actors make a new choice when they are stopped. If the
volunteer doesn’t stop at a point that is clearly bullying stop the scene and go over to them and
ask “was that okay?”, “why didn’t you clap?” and remind them they are in control of stopping this
behavior. This should be fast, they get the idea quickly. So no more than 2 minutes]
Awesome - thanks so much - big round of applause for _____ [guide them back to their seat]
So who can tell me some things they say in that scene that were NOT okay?
[let them tell you, discuss why they weren’t okay]
Okay - so it is pretty easy for us to stand up here and clap to stop the scene - the world
stops and then we get to make a new choice. Does that happen in real life? No. In real life
we don’t get to clap and have everyone stop. But we DO get to make new choices. Each
one of you has the power to choose to be supportive, to choose to be kind, to choose
not to be cruel. Your choices are what makes the difference. And if you slip and say
something or do something you shoudn’t - you can’t clap and stop the world, but you
can choose to make it better. You can choose to stop, you can choose to apoligize.
And for everyone else who sees this happening: you can choose to do something. You
can choose to stop it, to support a friend, and you can all choose to not let this cruel
behavior go on at your school.
Step 4: Let them hear from a bully & a victim:
I believe that no kid gets up in the morning and decides to go to school and be mean. I
just don’t think it happens. I believe that you all are great kids and that you don’t mean
for this stuff to happen. Things get out of control. And when that happens I always
wonder how we got there - what were people thinking. In this next exercise we’re going to
hear what people are thinking when they get into these situations.
So I need another volunteer. [choose one a kid who can handle this - they will have to be able to
clap and then point to who they want to hear from] Okay, you are going to do the same thing we
saw earlier - when you see behavior you don’t like clap [practice]. But this time, you can choose
which person you would like to hear from to find out what they’re thinking.
[the goal here is not resolution, it is supposed to get worse. when you are stopped and asked,
explain your thoughts in real words and feelings - how did you get there, why did you say or do
those things, what was your motivation? the person working with the student will call scene, but
if it is going on too long call it - remember these have to move fast - don’t let conflict simmer -
get it out there at the top]
Great job ______ [guide them back to their seat]. Who can tell me some things they noticed
[get a few brief comments]
So it is easy to see how quickly things can go from being fine, to getting out of control.
Neither of them meant for it to get that far, but it happened. You all realized that stuff wasn’t
Step 5: Let them make better choices:
You see and hear when things aren’t right, so now let’s help my friends make better
choices. I need another volunteer. [choose one, explain the clap] but this time, when we
freeze them, you and your friends are going to help us make better choices [assign the other
actor who hasn’t done this yet to work with the student. Get an inspiration for the scene. When
you are frozen they will give you a new choice to resolve the conflict. you have to keep creating
new conflict withing the scene so they can keep correcting you. this one should resolve.]
Awesome job! [guide them back to their seat].
Okay - so we’ve seen this behavior, we heard what causes this behavior - what the people are
thinking, and we have all had a chance to give us better choices.
Step 6: Recap
You guys know what this behavior is, so you know what it looks like. So who remembers
what we can do it we are in this situation? [let them answer we are looking for the three that we
said earlier then recap] That’s right: Say something, walk away, and get a grownup.
And what can we do if we see this happening to someone else? [Let them answer then
recap] That’s right - Walk over and defend your friend, walk over and help your friend walk
away, and get a grownup.
Each of you can decide today to make a difference. Each of you can decide today to
choose support over cruelty. And if you do that - if you all make a pledge today to
support one another - we won’t have to worry about this bullying behavior anymore.
Make this a place of support and you will have a bully free zone. I know you guys can do
Optional: if there is time do the superhero game
If there is not time: Thank you so much everyone - you all have done a great job - give
yourselves a round of applause!
Step 7: Show them what Support feels like:
Comic Book Factory: [this is a cross between Ad Exec and Pillars] We’ve talked a lot about
support today and we want to show you how good it feels when someone is really supporting
you. So I need three volunteers [choose them]. For this scene you all are going to help us
out. We make comic books but we need your help. For this scene you all are going to help us
find the newest, best superhero for our comic book. Whatever you say (make it appropriate for
school) will be right - there are no wrong answers. And when you give us your answer we’ll let
you know it is right by cheering and applauding - we are going to go nuts. [to audience] Your
job is to cheer like this is the best idea you have heard in your lives - every idea is awesome!
Let’s try it [lead them in a wild cheer].
Great, so here we go.
Okay guys, comic book sales are dismal, and if we don’t come up with a new comic book
character soon we’ll have to shut down. We need a new hero. Someone new, that noone has
ever seen before. But what kind of hero - what could their power be? [tap a kid, wait for answer,
repeat it and go nuts with cheering] Yes, they _____, and they also [tap another kid, cheer]. So
they ___ & ______ but what could we call them? [tap a kid, cheer] Yes - of course, _____. So
they are named ________ and their powers are _______ & _________. So what shoud we
call the comic book? [tap, cheer]. Yes, and we should make it a movie - who could play them in
the movie [tap, cheer]. Absolutely - we have (title of the book/movie) featuring (the name of the
hero) who has the powers of (name them) and the movie will star (name them). YES! This will
be a huge hit - you save the day! [lead a giant cheer and guide them back their seats].
So how did that feel? It feels pretty great when you know you are supported, right? Did you
all feel how much fun that was and how great that felt? When you choose support that is the
kind of classroom you all can have - you can all feel that good every day.
Choose support over cruelty and you will have more fun, have more friends, and have a
better year - and we know you all can do that! Thank you so much, you guys have been
great - give yourself a round of applause!
Emotional State Cues
Directly acknowledge other’s emotions
Before speaking, be sure the emotions are worth expressing
Confront the conflict constructively
New Choice is an easy short form game to play and it explores making ‘new
choices’ during a scene. This game requires two improvisers and a facilitator. It is also
possible to play have a walk-on or another improviser enter half-way through the scene
to change the dynamics. To begin get an ask-for to inspire the scene. This can be a
location, object, role, line of script, theme, occupation, or anything else the improvisers
can explore to derive the content of the scene. Typically, the ask-for or audience suggestion provides the improvisers with a starting point just as ECM is designed to
orient elicitive workers in applied conflict work and keep the participants on the same
page (Innsbruck, 2014). In addition, the suggestion provided is used to demonstrate the
content was not preplanned and elicits the topic from the group. The content is
autobiographical and reflects the state of the group. The two performers begin the scene
and at any time the facilitator can call-out “new choice” and the last word, expression,
sentence, movement or choice that took place should be altered in some way. The
facilitator has control to decide the number of times new choice is said in a row or the
frequency, as well as the item in question. When the facilitator stops calling “new
choice” the performers continue the scene in the direction of the last choice made as if
the previous choices did not happen, and the scene continues. The possibilities of new
choices can differ in subtle ways or take the scene in a completely different direction.
The creative aspect is exploring different directions or choices in which a person could
act. Elicitive conflict transformation seeks to increase the number of viable options a
person perceives and can act on. The improviser’s “limit-situation” presents a moment
to make “limit act” choices (Freire, 2000: 99). I used to play several variation of this
game for example, ‘more specific/less specific’ or focusing in on any particular variable
which can be modified. The idea is to generate creative options in any situation. Short
form games are often 3-7 minutes in length.
Dynamic Conflict Resolution
Brainstorm every possible Solution
Evaluate the Alternatives