Dealing w/Someone Who is Upset

Today I thought I'd share a story that one of our PeaceWalker Private InnerCircle Members wrote in to me the other day. 

I have to admit two things:

(1) I love hearing stories from you folks out there using this PeaseWalker Approach in real time. 

(2) Never a bad thing when I have one of these emails written for me! =)

Either way, it's a great story that you can learn from regardless if you are a teacher or not! 

The way that Rob handled this student is indicative of the PeaceWalker Conflict Management Approach. 

No, this one isn't a physical encounter... 

Rather, it's one that many of us have to handle all to often at work and at home. 

Some great take away's here from Saint Rob!

Ok... Breathe... Just Breathe...

Teaching teenagers turns out to be phenomenal training for constantly honing your conflict management skills. I wanted to write to you today to tell you about a current experience and how Peacewalker training helped me stay level headed - please feel free to use it for the program if it's useful!

I've got a student right now - we will call her Maria. She is quiet, tends to be very private about things, and hasn't had any behavior records that I can find. 

Last week I noticed that she left class 10 minutes early so I followed-up heading to her next teacher and talking with Maria one on one. 

That was laying down a boundary: 

"You can't walk out when you want to, you need to check in with me for everyone's security."

I calmly informed her...

...that she can't do that and if she did it again, I would have to escalate my response (reiterating the next limit and what I would do if it was breached). She seemed to understand, but was somewhat defensive about it ("How come others get to leave early, that doesn't seem fair").

Two days later...

The same problem happened so I wrote an office referral and let her and her parents know about it through email - just sticking to the facts (Maria left early and had been warned about it so I'm writing an office referral). 

She replied back.. 

...And was upset, so I followed up with her in person again to make sure there was no misunderstanding (giving her the benefit of the doubt). 

From training, I already knew I needed to plan my approach strategically - reminding myself that she's a person just like me who deserves respect and to be heard. 

I approached it very neutrally and laid-out what was going on.

After some discussion I saw a few mistakes I had made and ultimately decided to give her the benefit of the doubt on some communication issues. I told her this in person, apologized for any stress I may have put on her, and communicated the issues back with the office. 

During our conversation, Maria's responses to me were brief and rude but I decided to give it the weekend to allow her some space - sometimes that's what people need.

Come Wednesday...

I went to check in with her to make sure things were good between us so I approached her desk and asked if we could talk. I was met with a cold, 

"No, I'm good" and she walked away. 

At this point, it seemed she wanted to save face and gain some sense of agency. Her behavior was rude but not beyond tolerable for the classroom. I gave her some space and reached-out via email but she continued her rude and disrespectful behavior - starting to play a tic-tac-toe game with a friend while I was trying to talk to their group. 

It seemed clear to me she wanted to entice a fight, but I didn't take the bait. I chose to ignore the behavior and once I left the area she went back to work.

Today, Maria entered the room and after several friendly class-wide reminders she still did not put her phone away. She also refused to do any of her work, talk to me, or look at me. 

I calmly gave her a last chance to put the phone away or I would have to take it. As I could feel my anger boiling up and my hands start to shake I went back to our basic training - my basic goal was to take care of her, her 24 classmates, and myself (most good for all). 

The boundary line had been laid-out clearly multiple times, she had been given several chances and reasons to cooperate, empathy was extended, and ultimately she decided that she would be the car that really wanted to hit the tree (my limits).

It's tough to stay level headed (Baseline) when a person like Maria is seemingly dead-set on not meeting you halfway. 

At one point during the exchange I told her that I didn't like how our relationship was and she said, 

"Well, it's not my fault." 

Like that response, I had to take her behaviors as data, not personal attacks. She wasn't interested in repairing a relationship with me or getting along. Maria seemed to think I was out to get her and I wasn't getting any feedback on what she was seeing because she refused to talk to me about it.

I reminded myself that her behavior was the issue and stuck just to the problem behaviors from that day (not giving up the phone, not talking to me, not heading to the office when told to) as I laid out the scenario to my principal and her dad via a Spanish interpreter (dad doesn't speak much English). 

During our phone call, I reiterated to her dad that I want her feeling safe in the classroom and if she isn't then we need to figure out what to do about it.

The hardest part of this for me is one of my biggest relative values is getting along with others and treating them well. From training, I know one of my triggers is when this isn't reciprocated. 

While I was stressing over our unresolved conflict over the last two nights I knew I needed to keep refining my own habits so I could be more at peace with the ordeal. 

This issue - being in conflict with a student when I had done everything reasonable (and beyond) to resolve it - was nagging me like a toothache. I needed to keep coaching myself to find peace in something firmly within my control. 

I conscientiously had to work at switching my definition of a good day from,

 "This student and I are getting along now"


"I did everything I could to help this kid". 

It's not easy, but each time I could reframe it has helped bring a better mindset and habit.

The end result? 

No conclusion to the situation yet, BUT the conversation with dad was promising and we have a meeting between the three of us next Tuesday to see if we can get to a place of common ground where Maria and I can both thrive in the classroom. 

And there you go! 


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