Did you ever resolve a conflict between yourself and one of your residents or mediated one between two of your residents? Did you ever avoid resolving a conflict and wait instead? Did you ever resolve a conflict but after-the-fact realized that you went about it the wrong way? If you answered YES to any of the above questions, this article is for you!
Here are some examples of types of conflicts:
• RA – Resident (Most common)
• Resident – Resident
• RA – RD
• RD – Resident
• RA – RA
I am sure that there is one time or another that you can remember one of these conflicts surfacing whether you were the RA or the resident. There are three “easy” steps to resolve a conflict, but you have to be brave.
Conflicts between residents and RAs usually occur after a confrontation over alcohol-related events or quiet hour violations. Being a RA is a very tough position, the only way to survive is to be consistent. If you handle every confrontation in the same reasoned fashion then it takes emotion away, and it is easier to get back to reality once the confrontation is finished. The most important tip I learned over my time as an RA, is that you have to confront the behavior, not the person. An example of confronting the behavior and not the person might be, “John, your behavior is in violation of college policy, can you please turn the music down.” An example of confronting the person and not his or her behavior might be, “Sarah, you are being so loud and inconsiderate, keep it down, you are bothering people in the lounge who are studying for a test tomorrow”. The slight change in wording might make all the difference in preventing a conflict.
If you confront the behavior and not the person and a conflict between you and your resident still arises, then use the following steps to overcome the conflict:
If you confronted a resident and it didn’t go as well as you had hoped and a conflict arose between both of you, you need to face that resident and get it resolved as soon as possible. Allowing it to sit will not help. Do not just wait till things calm down; a high-tension level on the floor is not healthy for a happy community. On the other hand, don’t just try to resolve the conflict without thinking about the repercussions of your actions.
Think Before You Speak
Many times when an RA confronts a resident, they say things that they normally would not say, but which come out on the spur of the moment. Usually the adrenaline is rushing so fast that their thoughts get all twisted and they say things in the wrong order or the wrong tone of voice. Before you go to confront the person that you may have a conflict with, make sure you take a few minutes to write down what you are going to say. Writing down even two sentences will be helpful in helping you remember the most important parts that you want to cover. Once you have what you want to say written down, go over it a few times until it is solid in your mind and then go face the person.
Once you have thought about what you are going to say, make sure you say it in the right way. Many times the words are not hurtful, but it is the tone in which they are said to us. Take a minute to go over in your head, the different ways of relaying your message. If you want to do it in a nasty tone just because you are mad, it will cause more problems and will not solve the conflict. Go to your resident(s) and/or other person that you are having a conflict with and take a deep breath and tell them how you feel in a civilized manner. You do not have to be sickeningly sweet either, because that might give a false impression. Try to relay your emotions without giving a false impression in your voice, body language or facial expressions.
After you confronted the person and it seems that everything is back to normal, sit down again with your resident and talk about how you might have handled the confrontation better so that he or she did not develop a conflict. Of course, you might have done these three steps and they didn’t work on the first try. In this case, regroup and try them again.
If the conflict gets too large for you to handle and you feel that you are in danger or that another resident is in danger makes sure that the proper personnel are notified. The bottom line is that you want to make a safe and harmonious community; if a conflict on the floor is causing the community to be tense, it must be resolved.
Submitted by Susan Tomchak, Resident Assistant, Elizabethtown College