Chapter 3

B. Conflict management

Having thought about these aspects and having the answers in your pocket, you are now ready to start dealing with the core of this conflict. Having always in mind that we are talking about an FFS environment that aims at entertaining, educating, bonding, and generally speaking positively affecting the participants, you should always abstain from any harsh, extremely strict or dogmatic resolutions. You are there to safeguard the safety and respect towards your team members, as well as to ensure that the beneficial goal of your FFS activity remains intact. And this is how to do it: 

(a) Communicate: yes, we’ve talked about it before, but here it is again! Open communication is a key to any dispute. Arrange some meeting with both parties and give them space to present their arguments in a well-behaved and respectful way. Encourage reasonable dialogue and try to suppress conflict-provoking behaviors especially when the role of the parties is more likely to bring it to the table (ex. guardian – child conflict) or the personality of one party is stronger and more dominant than the other. As the mediator, you need to project calmness and firmness, and by all means remain impartial and objective. Be patient while the parties present their point of view, invite them to explain their perspective and try to separate yourself from the conflict and have a positive and peaceful attitude.

(b) Active listening: hearing is one thing, listening is another, and active l istening is something totally different! It involves offering the space to the speaker to express themselves in their own manner, paying attention to the conversation and avoid interrupting. And this should not be linked only to your attitude towards the parties, but also to the latter towards each other. Invite them to engage in constructive dialogue and take some time to understand what the opposite party is trying to explain. Your role in this situation is to try to summarize what is being said, repeat it if need be so it is really understood by everyone and also support the party if they have difficulty in articulating their arguments properly (especially in conflicts between guardians and children). At the same time keep an eye on their body language and receive any “signs” that might help you figure out your next steps.

(c) Review options: there might be multiple solutions to every conflict and you as a mediator should be flexible with that. Invite the parties to be involved in the process of figuring out the best solution to their conflict and engage them in brainstorming and exchanging ideas. This will help you to not only release the tension and bring them back to the team-work style, but also to end up with a solution that is satisfactory to both parties. Open a discussion about the options that are applicable in this particular situation and search for something that would be beneficial for everyone. This indirect collaboration will build up again the team spirit and lead faster to the honest resolution of this conflict.

(d) Win-win solution: any punishment or sanction is out of the concept of FFS and any non-formal education environment. The goal is to peacefully resolve the conflict and ensure that the parties agree that this is a fair resolution to their issue. There is no urge to have a “winner” and a “loser”, neither this is the message you need to send to your team. Of course, on some occasions there can be a victim and an offender, but this does not mean that the latter should be stoned! Encourage apologetic behaviors if it is required as apologizing, accepting and forgiving is the cathartic tripled that brings peace to both the victim and the offender. Add a sense of humor after the conflict is resolved to make thing lighter and give your team members the sense that everything is ok, the problem is solved and this was a positive lesson for the whole team with a happy ending. Finally, do not forget to keep an eye on the post-conflicted parties for future incidents or repeating behaviors that might occur.