As shelter-in-place and social distancing orders wear into May, many who have been confined indoors with their loved ones are finding themselves awash with conflict. To remedy the tension so many are feeling in these difficult situations, Klein College of Media and Communication professors Deborah Cai, Tricia Jones and David Brown created Calming the Conflicts, a series of virtual events sharing tools and methods to cope with conflict, both personally and professionally. The series launched on May 1 with a joint session by Cai and Jones, and is open to students, faculty and staff.
During the virtual office hours for Cai's CSI 3701: Intercultural Communication class, she began to see a common thread in the conflicts her students were experiencing since being confined to their homes. When Brown reached out around the same time to her about helping Klein students face issues stemming from learning and working remotely, Cai and Jones knew a series on coping with conflict would be a perfect fit. The three joined forces and the first installment, titled "Calming the Conflicts: Understanding, Managing and Overcoming Conflict," was launched into its planning stages, led by Klein's foremost experts in conflict resolution.
"Klein has focused on wellness in the broadest sense of the term and this was an area that we thought would be helpful and supportive of more robust wellness—especially for students," Jones says. "We also wanted to focus on tools that people could use right away—combining theory and practice rather than just lecturing. We felt good about the balance."
During the session, the presenters talked through different types of conflicts, ways they tend to escalate, and a number of tools for coping and eventually resolving them. The audience was engaged throughout the session, anonymously submitting descriptions of conflicts they are facing to the moderators to direct the conversation toward their own experiences. Additionally, the hosts used a Mentimeter poll, in which audience members anonymously submitted survey results in real time, to gather feedback about the types of conflict attendees are facing, as well as how they are dealing with them.
"I felt like the session acted as team builder with the use of the Mentimeter platform, which allowed us to see what others are currently experiencing," says Mia Nardone, an attendee and administrative department coordinator at Klein. "I wanted to share this experience with fellow Klein faculty, staff and students to get more of an understanding of their feelings."
In fact, a large portion of the attendees seeking this mutual understanding were not students, but instead faculty and staff. While the event was initially targeted at Klein students, the session clearly demonstrated that faculty and staff are undergoing similar experiences and struggles.
This realization among the attendees and presenters was ultimately humanizing. As the Klein community came together to not only address strategies for "calming" conflict, many were comforted to simply know that they are not alone in the issues they are facing.
"The most valuable elements [of the series] are two. First is providing a forum where people can look at the conflicts they may be having and find some ways to think about what they can do to manage them better," says Cai. "The other element is the value for people attending to know they are not alone in having conflict in their life right now. So many people responded to the survey about the challenges they are having—I think it helps to know other really good people are also managing relationships that at times can be challenging, especially in the current circumstances."
The team is looking forward to planning more installments in the future. For now, anyone is able to view the first session, "Calming the Conflicts: Understanding, Managing and Overcoming Conflict," on YouTube.