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6 Steps to Building Peace

 "Peace cannot
be kept by force,

it can only be achieved by understanding"
Albert Einstein


Saying we want peace, or sending holiday greetings to this effect is not the same as learning and passing on the basic process for settling the disagreements that will occur in life. (Think of how husbands and wives often disagree... and they picked each other!) Many schools are now hosting programs teaching peer mediation techniques. The wording at your school may be different, but however the following steps are worded, the process remains the same. These steps require practice, and more practice. It is a matter of learning how to settle problems quickly, or having an adult life with more than your share of trouble.

6 Steps for Rebuilding Peace
                            And an  Idea for Advanced Students

1. Time Out to Calm Down

Take time to calm down and think about what is lost if the conflict (fighting, arguing, etc.) continues. Time to approach the other person and ask for a chance to settle this peacefully. What common bonds will remain strained in the classroom, school, neighborhood, etc. until the problem is handled?


2. Send an "I" Message

Speak Personal Needs. Most people accept as truth what we say about ourselves, but can easily argue statements about their actions or motives. Speaking in terms of our own needs is much better than pointing out faults in another person’s actions. Try to say, "I need ...", or "I feel ..."without using the word "you."

3. Listen Actively

When we listen so that we can repeat back to the speaker in our own words, we are evaluating, analyzing, condensing and understanding the other person’s message. When we listen actively, we have a better opportunity to gain that person’s viewpoint. If we actually repeat back these ideas for the other person to hear our understanding, we build up trust in them of our own sincerity in resolving the problem. Body language also communicates our desire to listen (or not.) Listening actively is a skill that will save us many problems in life.


4. Both Sides Accept Responsibility

It takes two to argue. An active listener, notices and accepts responsibility for how their actions contributed to creating the misunderstanding. Both sides need to reach this conclusion for their own activities. It is more difficult to reach a peaceful conclusion when either of the two people continues to only point out the problems of the other. If one side or the other refuses to accept responsibility, consider mediation as an alternative.

5. Brainstorm Possibilities

Once you get this far, begin listing alternatives that allow one side or the other (or both) to feel that their needs are being met. While brainstorming, it is important to list each suggestion, avoiding judgmental comments. This encourages those involved to feel free to suggest another idea. After an agreed amount of time, the full list can be prioritized, and two or three ideas may be combined into a compromise that both sides can accept.


6. Agree to Live by the Results

Getting to an idea that "could" work is most of the process, but being able to live by this idea is a demonstration of maturity. This is how Peace is truly won, and enemies are allowed to become friends.

Ideas for Advanced Students

Help your teacher make history and social studies fun... and more relevant. Try this:

Ask for and arrange to have students role play societal situations. Examples of relevant issues are: the USA vs. Iraq at the United Nations, the Revolutionary War, industrialists vs. environmentalists, or any issue that may involve shouting matches and name calling. Try this with current political candidates, issues and parties ... it can be revealing. (Note: school sporting events sometimes become violent. How can pep rallies and cheers help or hurt a situation?)

To work well, a few students must prepare to role play the key protagonists (characters). Act out a situation first with the name calling, then with "I" messages to make clear how use of the language can escalate or reduce a conflict.

It helps more students see the usefulness of these skills if the role playing is done periodically with different topics.


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