Tomorrow’s National Day of Silence Highlights Bullying of LGBT People

On Friday, April 15, students across the U.S. will engage in a nonviolent, peaceful protest against the daily abuse LGBT people endure year-round in silence.

On the National Day of Silence hundreds of thousands of students nationwide take a vow of silence to bring attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in their schools.

Four Tips from the Olweus Bullying Program

A teacher in the public schools of metropolitan Atlanta, GA, shares these four tips, drawn from the Olweus Bullying Program:

1.  I will not bully others;

2. I will help others who are being bullied;

3. If I am being bullied, I will tell an adult at school and an adult at home; and

4. I will not exclude others (many children do not realize that this is actually bullying).

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“Bullying is a real problem in schools. I feel like I am in a perpetual state of conflict resolution,” the classroom teacher says.  “I have noticed that by setting an expectation that our class is kind and considerate and modeling that behavior for them — that the students seem to want to be more kind. My students develop a protectiveness for each other — kind of like brothers and sisters take up for each other,” she adds.

“We also allow students to discuss situations regarding bullying without telling any names during the meetings. The program has shed light on the bullying at our school and has limited the stigma of “tattling” on other students. An Anonymous perception survey was given to students to determine how effective the program has been. The results indicated that students are feeling safer and that bullying incidents are declining at our school.

I have noticed that students are not as passive about the mistreatment of others as much as in the past. Hopefully, our students will carry these values with them throughout their school and adult life.

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Handling hurtful statements

Let’s say you’re a classroom teacher, or a parent, and you face a situation you’d really like to resolve, peaceably, for all parties involved.  Maybe you’re a pastor or a small-time lawyer, or soccer coach, and you just need some simple, practical help in resolving a dispute, without banging heads together or involving the U.N.

If you Google “mediation” or “mediator,” you’ll find screens full of hits involving high-powered corporate lawyers and court-ordered cases.  Where is a “seat-of-the-pants” peacemaker supposed to turn?  For selfish reasons, I will say, this blog, of course!

Combatants almost always resort to “hurtful statements”:   vicious, well-targeted verbal attacks that are proven to draw blood.  You step in, metaphorically (or even literally) covered in spattered blood.  What guidelines should you, Accidental Peacemaker,  use?  Even the list below will have to be adapted, because of the heat of battle and the real-world demands of the situation at hand.

Erin Brit is a professional mediator.  Her background is in the law.  On her blog, she posted some practical advice for handling hurtful statements.  Check out her six tips and see if they might fit the situation you’re facing.  In my humble opinion (IMHO), they apply to every human interaction.  Please share your own responses in the comment area below.

Here’s what Erin Birt suggests:

Hurtful statements can derail and/or prolong mediation and the collaborative process.  It is a common occurrence which must be addressed immediately in order to stay focused on the main goal of resolving a legal issue.  Below are some general principles for how to handle hurtful statements during mediation or a collaborative meeting (or at home).

As a party, when a hurtful statement is directed to you, it is important to pause, breathe, think, and try not to respond immediately. If needed, ask to take a break. Give yourself time to acknowledge how you truly feel about the person’s comments.  Often if you wait a few minutes to respond, you will understand better why the person said the hurtful statement.

Hurtful statements can be a result of ignorance, confusion, misunderstanding, or lack of information.  If you can determine the possible motivation for the hurtful statement, you can respond appropriately.

If you chose to respond, the following are general principles:

1. Be direct.  Talk to the person that offended you and not to others.

2. Be specific. Be brief and explain exactly what offended you.

3. Be timely. Do not address this issue days or weeks later. Memories will fade and perceptions will change.

4. Use “I” statements to communicate how the statements affected you.

5. Explicitly state what changes you want the person to make. Ex: Do not make derogatory remarks in front of the children.

6. Acknowledge change.  Express appreciation for the change in behavior, if possible.

Remember, not all hurtful statements need a response. If you determine the statement was made due to ignorance or ill will, it is okay to decline to respond.

A lot of time in mediation and settlement conferences is devoted to addressing hurtful statements. As a practitioner, keeping an open mind and asking additional questions when hurtful statements are made can help clear up misunderstandings and allow the parties to refocus and resume working on resolving the legal issues.