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  • 20130128163451-CaptainI was a member of my high school’s Dance Team for my junior and senior year. My senior year of high school I was one of four seniors graduating. I had been on the team the least numbers of years compared to the other three seniors. Two of the girls had been on the team since sophomore year, and the other girl had been on the team since freshmen year.

    The team had spent all summer bonding at dance camp, learning new routines, and getting ready for the new school year. The coach named the captains of the team at the start of the fall season. She named the girl who had been on the team since freshmen year, with which I had no issue. She named one of the other girls that had been on the team since sophomore year, which I believe the coach made captain just because she had been on the team longer. I thought I should be named captain because I had stepped up throughout the summer. I had choreographed a dance that we performed at the football games, and the younger girls looked up to me. I was upset about not receiving the title and that night after practice, I came home and spoke to my Dad. He had not been named the captain of his high school football team because he was not the quarterback. He told that I could still be a captain without the title, it was more about being a leader and someone the rest of the girls could look up to and respect. He told me to continue acting and behaving the same way I always had, and not let the title bring me down.

    School is starting this week, and I cannot help but wonder how many seniors feel snubbed when they don’t receive the title of captain. I wonder how often conflict arises between coaches and parents when their kids don’t get the title? Or between coaches and athletes when they feel snubbed? Or between the captains and other members who feel their teammates didn’t deserve it? My junior year and first year on the dance team, there were six seniors graduating. When the coach announced who the captains were, one of the seniors was so upset she didn’t get the title, she quit.

    What is the best way to handle this conflict if you are not named the captain and you feel like you should have?

    1. Think before you speak. The girl on my team quit before talking to the coach. She also made a lot of negative and nasty comments about the girls who had been named the captains, as well as the coach. Before jumping to conclusions, try to put yourself in your coach’s shoes and ask yourself why they may not have made you captain? Are you frequently late to practice? Do you have leader qualities or are you more of a follower? Don’t talk badly about other teammates or your coach, that just appears immature.
    2. Approach the coach. Once you have put yourself into your coach’s shoes, if you still don’t understand their decision approach them calmly. You could say something like, “Hey Coach, I have been thinking about the title of captain and I was wondering why you didn’t choose me? Could I have done something differently? If there were certain qualities, you were looking for I was hoping to work on them throughout the year”.
    3. Remember it was not your teammates choice. Your coach chose them; they didn’t put themselves in that position. Therefore, don’t take your anger and frustration out on your teammate, this will just further drama and conflict. Team conflict can cause losses, for a team to win they have to work together.
    4. Accept the decision and keep pushing forward. Despite not receiving the captain title initially, I did what my Dad advised and continued to act like a leader. My hard work paid off and at the start of the Winter season, my coach announced that I was being made captain because of my hard work and leadership skills.


    Abigail Clark M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management


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  • Bullying-and-Relational-AggressionI began at the University of Baltimore in the spring of 2013. I was in the process of a major transformation in my life. I had lost thirty pounds, switched from another graduate program where I was severely unhappy, and overall I was trying to maintain a more positive attitude. I was excited and happy about the changes I was making. It was about that time I started hearing rumors and gossip as to why I lost the weight, how I had lost the weight, and why I switched graduate school programs. Shortly after that, I found out that the origins of these rumors were coming from two girls I had considered my closest friends. I realized that the unsupportive and negative behavior was something I had experienced in most of my female friendships throughout my life. I spoke to other women and found out that they too, had experienced the same thing. I researched and found out that this behavior had a term.

    The National Association of School Psychologists describes Relational Aggression as “harm within relationships that is caused by covert bullying or manipulative behavior.” Relational Aggression can be demonstrated as social exclusion, giving someone the silent treatment, or spreading rumors and gossip among other behaviors. I became so passionate about this topic that I wrote my Master’s thesis about relational aggression in female friendships. I should note that relational aggression can be utilized by males too, but women tend to behave this way more than men.

    How can young adolescents combat relational aggression? The teenage years are already awkward, stressful, and full of angst. Teens tend to turn to their friends more often than their parents even if the friends are bullying them. This can be very detrimental. I compiled a short list for teens on how best to handle these conflict-ridden situations.

    1. Be confident in yourself. I know the adolescent years are a time when you are the most self-conscious. You know for the most part what you value and what you deserve. When I was a teen, I allowed people who claimed to be my friends dictate how I saw myself. If I had been more self-confident, I could have stood up for myself by standing by choices instead and giving into what my friends wanted.
    2. Expand your circle of friends. Friends are everything during these years, but shouldn’t it be the quality of the friends, not the quantity? I wish I would have had higher standards for my friendships during my adolescent years. If your friends are treating you poorly, branch out and meet new people. I am not saying the moment you get into a fight with a friend you cut them off and find new ones. But having more friends from different circles allows you to be well-rounded and less dependent on the friends who are being mean.
    3. Confront constructively. If a friend is acting relationally aggressive towards you, confront them. Don’t approach them when they are with a large group. Approaching them this way might cause them to be embarrassed and lose face in front of others. Instead wait for a private moment with them and so you can talk to them face-to-face. While face-to-face confrontation can be scary, you are better able to see their non-verbal responses. You could say, “Hey Megan, I noticed recently we haven’t talked as much. Did I do something wrong?” If she responds yes, or nastily, you could say, “If I did something wrong, then I would like to apologize so we can move forward.”
    4. Recognize differences of perspective. I remember a friend of mine in middle school once got mad at me and didn’t speak to me because she thought I had rolled my eyes at her when she was speaking. I didn’t know what I had done for a week before she told me, and I apologized. I didn’t realize I had rolled my eyes, and we resolved the issue. Adolescent years are full of emotions, so the quicker you try to address the conflicts the more likely you can fix and move forward.


    Abigail Clark M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management



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  • t1larg.cyber.bullying.gi-1Bullying has become one of the biggest topics of conversation in today’s education system. Bullying caused conflict between two or more students and left unresolved, can result in severe consequences. According to Dosomething.org, “Over 3.2 million students are victims of bullying each year”. Dosomething.org also points out “Only 1 in 10 victims will inform a parent or trusted adult of their abuse”. Teens may not be reporting their abuse to their parents. Therefore, the parents may have no idea it is occurring until it is too late. While I am not a parent, I would feel in these situations both helpless and hurt if my child was being bullied and I had no idea. I have brainstormed below some tips and strategies for parents whose teens may be victims of bullying and what they can do to assist their teen in managing these conflicts.

    1. Talk to your adolescents. I know teenagers are challenging during this period of their life when they are changing daily and regularly pushing the boundaries of freedom. But, parents you need to talk with your kids, even if it’s small talk about the mundane events of their lives. Keeping lines of communication open are necessary because if your child feels they cannot disclose information to you then they won’t.
    2. Keep your cool. If your child does open up about the conflicts they are experiencing in school, jumping into protective parent mode could make your child hesitant to tell you things in the future. Keep in mind, involving your parents is uncool during your teen years. Instead, brainstorm with your teen constructive ways to manage their conflict that does not involve contacting the other parents or administration.
    3. Be observant of your child’s behavior and temperaments. I know irritability and mood swings are typical in teenagers, but if your teen withdraws, or their personality makes an 180° turn, then that is cause for concern. Take notice if your child appears more upset after texting on her phone or using the computer, cyber bullying has become a serious issue in today’s society. If your teen seems more upset than usual after using these technologies, someone could be harassing him or her.
    4. Take a timeout from social media. Teens are spending a lot more time on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms. Surfing the sites to see what their friends are doing can be very addicting. Parents suggest to your teen that they take a break for a couple of hours each week. Unlike back in the day, when students were being bullied, they could escape from it when they went home. Technology has allowed bullies to enter into the home and continue their harassment of your teen. Requesting your teen take some time away from social media could assist them from getting away from their bully.
    5. Teach your teen how to manage conflict constructively. Conflict does not have to be a bad thing. Teaching your teen to confront their bully, without violence can be a confidence booster. Teach your teen to ask their bully questions such as, why are you treating me this way? What can be done to resolve this? If the bullying persists, tell your teen to come to you.
    6. If bullying does continue, ask your teen if it is okay to intervene. If they agree, go to the administration and ask what they feel can be done to resolve this issue.

    Bullying is not okay. Unfortunately, many administrators and teachers in the school system see this behavior as normal and acceptable. But, when adolescents are resorting to harming themselves as a way out, the issue becomes life and death. Parents, I urge you to check in with your teens and make sure they have not fallen victim to bullying behavior.


    Abigail Clark M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management


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Welcome to Texas Conflict Coach®. I am your host Pattie Porter, conflict resolution expert, mediator, conflict coach, facilitator and speaker. - Read More

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