Purpose: Students define “conflict” and identify their own conflict triggers.
1. Students create a conflict web.
Ask students what they think of when they hear the word “conflict.” Encourage them to consider situations that create conflict, how they feel when they are involved in conflict, the results of conflict, and so on. Write student responses where everyone can see, grouping similar responses to create a web or a cluster.
2. Students define “conflict.”
When students have exhausted their ideas, ask them to review the web or cluster on the board and suggest a definition for “conflict.” Write student responses.
Then, ask a volunteer to look up the word “conflict” in the dictionary. A dictionary definition might read “mental struggle resulting from incompatible or opposing needs, drives, wishes, or demands.” Have students review their definition and add to it or change it as needed. Lead students to recognize the important idea that conflict refers primarily to the mental struggle between two people. Point out that a physical struggle, according to this definition, is most likely the result of a mental struggle that escalates out of control.
3. Students consider the relationship between stress and conflict.
Ask students to explain the meaning of the saying, “That was the straw that broke the camel’s back.” Lead students to recognize that when people are feeling burdened, a small incident might “break” them.
Explain to students that stress is like a burden and can be the catalyst that turns a small conflict into an out-of-control situation. Ask students to recall the sources of stress that they discussed in “Lesson 4: Improving Well-Being” of the Confidence Building module. (Students should mention problems at school, problems on the job, and pressure from friends or family.) Tell students that many sources of stress are common to conflict situations.
Point out to students that the relationship between conflict and stress is reciprocal—conflict is stressful and stress can provoke conflict. When we feel stressed, we are more likely to let conflict escalate. Review with students the stress management, breathing, exercise, and relaxation techniques they discussed in “Lesson 4: Improving Well-Being” of the Confidence Building module. Tell students that using these strategies to reduce stress can help them more effectively manage conflict.
4. Students identify recurring situations of conflict in their lives.
Tell students that conflict is a natural part of life that we can learn from and, in turn, try to make into a positive experience. One strategy for managing conflict is to be ready for it.
Ask students to consider the situations in their lives that involve conflict. Instruct students to write down recurring conflict situations and to pay close attention to the factors that trigger conflict in their lives.
Tell students to write down several specific conflict situations that they want to manage more effectively. Explain that they will keep this list and refer to it at the end of each lesson in this module.