Do youth need conflict resolution skills? Part 2: Stop, think and identify your goals

Help youth learn to resolve conflict by having them step back and think, and understand the goals of the conservation.

Unresolved conflict can destroy an individual's self-esteem or damage a group's capacity for teamwork. Helping youth learn how to deal with unresolved conflict can help them learn how to communicate their ideas and opinions in a way that adds value to future collaborative efforts.

Common tips to help youth resolve conflict:

  • Step back and think.
  • Understand your goals for the conversation.
  • Listen to understand.
  • Communicate your feelings without placing blame.
  • Be aware of your own defensiveness.
  • Acknowledge your assumptions.
  • Seek common ground.
  • Understand the other’s point of view by asking clarifying questions.
  • Know that conflict can be healthy.
  • Separate people from problems.

So how do we help youth effectively address conflict? The first step in addressing conflict is to stop, step back and think about the conflict. It is important to take time and be intentional in how we carry out a discussion around a conflicting issue. We may want to rush to a conclusion and in the process be unaware that our response, or lack of a response, has caused the situation to worsen. It is crucial to think through the situation involving a conflict and carefully plan what you want to say to avoid misunderstandings.

When you take the time to stop and think about the conflict, it would be good to also evaluate your purpose. Being aware of your goals in the discussion about the conflicting issue is important. Understanding why you are taking a stand on one side of a conflict is an important step in working towards a resolution. Clarifying your goals can help you determine when to walk away and when to engage further in a discussion. It is better to only begin conversations around conflicting issues when you are personally invested or think it is essential the problem be solved. It is not productive to engage in a conversation around a conflicting issue if you only hope to change the other person’s opinion or are trying to win an argument.

Youth who learn to stop, step back and evaluate their goals are developing skills that will make them an integral and valuable part of any team.

This is the second article in a series discussing conflict resolution with youth. The Michigan 4-H science team understands the value and importance of teamwork. Helping youth develop the ability to successfully resolve conflict is an important skill for future success in science and in life.

For more ways to share science with youth in your life, please explore the Michigan State University Extension Science and Engineering website. For more information about 4-H learning opportunities and other 4-H programs, contact your county MSU Extension office.

Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan 4-H Youth Development program help to create a community excited about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). 4-H STEM programming seeks to increase science literacy, introducing youth to the experiential learning process that helps them to build problem-solving, critical-thinking and decision-making skills. Youth who participate in 4-H STEM are better equipped with critical life skills necessary for future success. To learn more about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth in STEM literacy programs, read our 2015 Impact Report: “Building Science Literacy and Future STEM Professionals.”

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