Conflict Resolution – Reminder for Practitioners

Today I received a text. It read: “Which nipple should I get pierced.”

I’m recently single, quite recently, and two days ago I deleted my ex’s contact from my phone. Before deleting the number, I wrote it down on the back of a used envelope and placed it under some stuff in a dresser drawer, for just in case. It was a successful attempt to thwart my texting of late night “I miss you” messages.

So, then today, I got this nipple text. Having just started the washer, I was leaving the house for the coffee shop/ writing office, laptop in tow, in a light spring jacket. I like to post to my blog on Mondays, and Sunday has become a writing afternoon. This particular February afternoon was a balmy mid-50s sunny bright day. BUZZZzzz. New Text Message: “which nipple should I get pierced.” I recognized the unnamed number. It was the same number written on the back of an envelope currently hiding under some socks. I set the bag carrying my computer down and unzipped my jacket. Answering with a, “Did you intend this text for me?” I received an immediate “idk” response in return. This led to a painful tete-e-tete consisting of texts and phone calls, and an unpleasant ending.

Stepping outside, a large amount of snow on the ground made the sun even brighter; I tilted my head back, closed my eyes, and felt my cheeks warm. Faced with such a bright and beautiful February day, and faced with a self-imposed writing deadline for the blog, sadness still threatened to keep me homebound, and uninspired. “How could I put a restorative spin on this event,” I asked myself, “maybe I could just write about that.” I thought about restorative circles, and about restorative justice, and about past Twitter inspired blog posts, and couldn’t really see how I could work this strained relationship into a relevant post. I basically just got angry that my beautiful day had just been hijacked against my will. I went back into the house, climbed the stairs to my bedroom, and began sorting laundry. When it hit me, hit me so hard, mind you, that I laughed right out loud, and laughed for quite a long while.

When I teach Conflict Resolution to 7th and 8th graders, I tell the following story and ask participants to think about personal responsibility. One of your classmates is acting out in class. You stop reading and focus your attention on the student and teacher that are now arguing. You also turn and smile at your friend, not the student that is acting out; your friend has also stopped reading. Are you part of this conflict? Most students respond in the negative, “No, I wasn’t doing anything.” And, I am quick to point out that yes, you were doing something, you were reading, and then you stopped reading. You paid attention to the argument. You gave your “pass this course and graduate” energy to the student who was acting out. You gave your energy away. “Did you intend to give your energy away,” I ask. “Were you asked for your permission, or did you give it away without even knowing you were giving it away?”

“Oh, Joe, your day was not hijacked against your will,” I laughed, piling whites, and darks. “You got on the plane when you answered the nipple text.” I freely gave away my energy, and then blamed the person I gave it to. Epiphany. Then laughter. Then healing.

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