Overcoming Differences: Part II

Aaron Jean-Baptiste, Young Trustee and Leap Graduate
Friday 8th July 2016
Leap Confronting Conflict is a national charity that specialises in the creative management of conflict. In this post-Brexit world, we are all experiencing greater instances of conflict. Aaron Jean-Baptiste, a Leap programme graduate and Trustee, shares some advice so that you can manage the situation (and not have to leave the country.)

The recent turnout for/outcome of Brexit has left me feeling like a Montague caught in a sea of Capulets; many of my relatives voted to leave the EU, and the highlighted difference in opinions has caused a great divide between them." data-share-imageurl="https://leapconfrontingconflict.org.uk/sites/default/files/field/image/Leap%20Workshop%20-%20209.jpg">

Leap Confronting Conflict is a national charity that specialises in the creative management of conflict. In this post-Brexit world, we are all experiencing greater instances of conflict. Aaron Jean-Baptiste, a Leap programme graduate and Trustee, shares some advice so that you can manage the situation (and not have to leave the country.)

The recent turnout for/outcome of Brexit has left me feeling like a Montague caught in a sea of Capulets; many of my relatives voted to leave the EU, and the highlighted difference in opinions has caused a great divide between them. With the possibility of another Scottish referendum on the cards and xenophobic abuse on the rise there is no time like the present to address the conflict. Here are some useful tools to implement whilst navigating the heated aftermath of the referendum.

Speak in the “I”:

Very useful in the home, ‘I statements’ solidify you and represent you and your opinions alone. It is incredibly easy to wrongfully generalise or even represent a group’s opinion as your own. You may find it incredibly hurtful that a relative voted Leave and state: “you’re selfish, you don’t care about us” whilst angrily pointing your turkey leg across the dining table. This statement leaves no space for a response and disguises your opinion as facts, likely false ones at that. Instead, you could say “I feel like you don’t care about me” as an example of an “I statement”. It expresses your opinion in a non-antagonising way and directly opens up your personal concern. An appropriate response would be to acknowledge the concern and push for clarity: “I do care about you and I believe I voted in your best interest. Why do you feel otherwise?” Now, there may be instances where conversations get incredibly heated; in these situations it is important to let people finish before responding and in extreme cases it is best to walk away and continue the discussion once you have calmed down. Consider that you can never truly feel another’s emotion, only estimate from past experience. Unless it’s a food fight you’re after, consider using “I Statements”.

Utilise clarifying questions:

An important part of active listening is clearing ambiguity by relaying information before responding. This can be very effective when engaging with children and young adults, as most young people have a hard time articulating how they feel, which can create misinterpretation. If when listening to someone you sense confusion, try repeating their sentence back in your own words. Take the following garden path: “I done politics.” This can potentially be misconstrued as “I’m done with politics” or “I studied politics.” Gain clarity by responding: “So, just to clarify, you studied politics in school?” This simple approach quickly improves the quality of communication by ensuring arguments are well understood.

Respond, don’t react:

Reactions are a luxury for online trolls. The term ‘react’ is often used interchangeably with 'respond', but there is a key difference between them; cognition. A reaction is impulsive, whereas a response is deliberate and intended. Guzzling the nearest liquid after eating chilli would constitute a reaction. It’s a solution to the problem, but is often a suboptimal one. On the other hand, visiting the fridge to get a glass of milk would constitute a response. You acknowledged the problem and rationalised options before finding an optimal solution. Following the referendum result, my newsfeed has become somewhat bipolar; some post articles requesting a second vote, and others bask in the victory of the leave campaign. It is important to realise that these posts are catalysts for impulsive reactions and I have personally seen people unfriended as a result of them. When witnessing emotive content, try not to impulsively react. Instead, factor in your desired outcome and tailor an optimal response.

Report facts, not interpretations:

Most useful when observing situations from a distance or with limited information, you may find it helpful to try ‘factual reporting’, in other words, identifying just the factual information. A good sense check when determining facts and interpretations is to evaluate the information received by your senses and compare it with the information generated in your brain. An example might be if you heard screaming, then you looked over to see two men, one man on-top of the other on the floor: this is the information sent by your senses; the facts. Your brain then might make an inference that the men are fighting, when in reality one man could be choking and the other is saving his life. As you can see, interpretations can drastically distort reality and cause misinformation. When speaking, attempt to stick to facts and acknowledge when you are using interpretations. Our brains are well-trained at making inferences, but they can occasionally be wrong; be cautious when you suspect others have disguised interpretations within statements. We know that there has been a surge in hate crimes recently, but that doesn’t mean that every dirty look or action is due to hate. Having said that, if you do interpret an action as criminal activity, it is recommended you alert the authorities of your concerns.

 

Don’t feel down my fellow Montagues, as with all things, this too shall pass.

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