A couple weeks ago I was waiting in line eaves dropping on someone’s conversation. One woman was talking to another about a disagreement her daughter was having with one of her friends. It was apparent that the two girls were involved in a pretty bad conflict over a boy in school. The woman telling the story kept saying “her daughter’s friend was bullying her daughter.” But is sounded to me more like a bad conflict.
At most schools and conferences I have spoken at many teachers and parents really don’t understand the difference between conflict and bullying.
Here is the brief definition:
Conflict is basically two people in a disagreement and no one is trying to overpower anyone.
It is not serious, accidental and only happens occasionally. In most cases it is face to face or texting privately between the two individuals.
Bullying is when someone is over powering another, it is purposeful, it is a repeated action and can happen quickly. It is when someone crosses the line and spreads lies, rumor and gossip to other people online or directly in front of the person being targeted. In some cases there are physical violence and threats.
Bullying is bad and it can bring darkness to all involved but a good conflict can actually strengthen a relationship.
“Most people instinctively avoid conflict, but Margaret Heffernan says good disagreement is central to progress. She argues the best partners aren’t echo chambers, and how great teams, relationships and businesses allow people to deeply disagree.” (NPR/TED Staff- “Is Conflict Good For Progress”)
Think about the disagreement you may have had with a friend. In time you were both able to work it out and find some kind of common ground. I know I have had many disagreements with my friends, but in the long run we both learned why we value each other’s wisdom, and friendship.
Getting back to the two moms I overheard in line at the checkout one of them said these words that I thought could help you with your students or child, “somebody needs to be willing to quit!
There is good conflict that can help strengthen a relationship and there is bad conflict, where each party hits below the belt so to speak. (but this is not bullying) They may regret what they said to each other and it could end a good friendship. This kind of conflict may need mediation, someone outside of the two parties involved to help them realize that “somebody needs to be willing to quit”.
Most schools and some churches offer mediation for student to use to help work out their differences.
Check with you school counselor or church office for recommendations.
There is a difference between conflict and bullying and I welcome your comments and your stories.