“Considering the political atmosphere that we have going right now and the way it’s expressed on both a macro and micro level, as a woman, it’s important that we effectively combat challenging situations,” said Mackenzie Priest-Heck SC ’21, a student worker at Scripps College’s Laspa Center for Leadership. “Learn to combat tension, rather than falling into that mean-girl or submissive dichotomy that I think most women end up doing.”
On Tuesday, the Laspa Center concluded its “Conflict Management and Leadership” L-Squad Workshop series at Scripps' Student Union. The program consisted of three lunchtime sessions presided over by speakers whose vocations require that they attempt to mediate conflicts. “And we’re all probably going to be in some sort of workplace too, at some time,” said Ana Cherry SC ’20, another student worker at Laspa. “So, it’s good to learn empathy and interpersonal skills.”
The first guest speaker, practicing lawyer Dawn Repp, talked about how to judge when it was okay to bust out their toolbox of problem-solving skills and use them to bridge interpersonal ruptures in a session titled “Choosing Your Battles.” Monsour Counseling and Psychological Services’s Dr. Carrie Grant then arrived to lead a hands-on, interactive forum titled “Listening and Assertive Communication” on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving break.
Catrina Walters SC ’20 said that the conflict-management steps that Dr. Grant offered are now treasured in her own toolbox. “I definitely found that the way I handle people and speak to them has begun to change after the second workshop,” she said. “I actually use the steps she talked about, and now even when I’m watching a dumb TV show or something, and someone is trying to solve a problem, I’m watching how they’re doing it, and then they do it wrong, and I go ‘Oh you missed a step!’”
The third session, “Conflict Resolution,” was led by Imam Adeel Zeb, the Claremont Consortium’s Muslim Chaplain. In his discussion, he had a volunteer from the audience enact a scenario where they asked another student to return a belonging initially borrowed without permission, and eventually used both participants to demonstrate speech that adequately expressed hurt, yet non-confrontational feelings.
“Imagine,” Zeb said, “that you’re an administrative member, and a co-worker sends out an email to the whole staff declaring that you are the most incompetent person they have ever seen. How do you react in a productive way?”
Zeb suggested using non-accusatory responses to maintain the validity of another person engaged in a conflict and to create conditions for productive discussion. He advocated for employing the five “love languages” as defined in Dr. Gary Chapman’s 1995 book: words of affirmation, physical touches, gift giving, quality time, and acts of service. Zeb had his audience journal in reaction to prompts, such as “I forgive myself (or someone else) for judging me as …,” “I forgive myself (or someone else) for accepting the false belief that …,” or “I forgive myself (or someone else) for believing the misrepresentation of reality that ….” Finally, he encouraged the scribbling down of personal feelings as a mechanism to help rid hatred, anger, and internal struggle.
“I’m happy with the response [the workshop] had,” Cherry said. “A lot of people turned up and seemed like they were really interested. And really, all the speakers are so knowledgeable, and they all tailored their discussions into relevant ideas for college students. So, my favourite part was just hearing the speakers and watching other people there enjoy it, too.”