Best Remedy For Girl Drama: Learning To Resolve Conflicts Directly And Effectively

Raising Daughters | Girl Drama

 

One of the best ways to avoid girl drama is to learn to handle your conflicts directly, peacefully, and effectively. Teach your daughters the skills to do that with sibling rivalry and with disagreements with you, and they will carry these abilities to friendships and dating partners.

Links:

Dr. Jordan’s previous podcast: 12 ways girls give their power away

Dr. Jordan’s previous podcast: How to bully-proof your daughter by not giving your power away

Listen to the podcast here

 

Best Remedy For Girl Drama: Learning To Resolve Conflicts Directly And Effectively

I’m wearing a T-shirt. It says, “Established in 1991.” My wife, Anne, is not here now because she’d be mad at me for wearing this T-shirt from my show. At our summer camps and our weekend retreats, we work with the girls a lot on learning skills to resolve conflicts peacefully. That’s not the only thing we do, but it’s a big and important piece.

The same thing goes for when we have to go to schools with our Strong Girls, Strong World school program teaching kids to resolve conflicts peacefully, so I thought for my show that I would give you a review of how I look at resolving conflicts and how you can teach that skill to your children in the home so that when they go into the world of school and dating partners someday or marriage partners someday, they’ll have some good skills to take good care of themselves.

I remember a long time ago. I saw a talk by Stephen Covey, the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, but also the author of another book called The 8th Habit. The 8th Habit was all about win-win negotiation. One of the things I learned with that was about how to teach kids about that process. It was mostly about adults but it’s for kids. I created an exercise that I do oftentimes in retreats, camps, and also in my school program.

Everybody pairs off in the class. I’ll demonstrate with one volunteer in the middle and I have them sit or lay down on the ground. We put our arms up like this and we lock hands. I tell them, “We’re going to see who can win the most M&Ms in one minute. Every time you can get your partner’s hand to touch the ground, you win M&Ms. Every time they get your hand to touch the ground, they win M&Ms. We’ll see who can win the most M&Ms.”

That’s all I say. I have it all set up. I say, “Ready, set, go,” and then I watch as these kids struggle. They’re screaming, grunting, and laughing. They’re having fun. Once the time is up, I’ll say, “Stop. Stay with your partner,” then we go around and I will ask, “How many M&Ms did each person win?” In general, there are probably two main things that happen. In a lot of pairs, it’s like 15-0, 17-0, or 20-0. It’s because one person just overpowered the other one. There are some groups or some pairs where it’s 0-0 or might be 1-1. We’re asking how they felt to do it that way and how it felt to be the kind of person who didn’t get any.

We’ll then stop and ask the question, “What do you think prevents each and every one of you in this class, in this camp, or in this group from winning 30 M&Ms?” They give us this bewildered look, but occasionally, one of the kids will come up with the idea, “What if we had that this way? They’re doing this locked-in hands thing. What if we just let the other person win? We both let each other win so that our hands will go back and forth. We could each earn at least 30 M&Ms in that amount of time.” I’ll then go, “Oh.” We’ll then ask, “Why do you think you didn’t do that?” The answer is always, “It’s because we thought it was a competition. You said we’re going to arm wrestle.”

I always say, “I never say we’re going to arm wrestle. You assumed I meant that,” and I’ll ask questions to the class or the group, “How many of you feel like there’s a lot of competition or sometimes too much competition in your group or your class?” Almost always all the hands go up. It’s a win-lose class. We talked about what would it feel like if you could develop more of a 30-30 class where everybody won 30 M&Ms. If you’re going to have a 30-30 class, what would it look like? They make a list of things like people to be kind. They would be respectful. They’d look out for each other. They would advocate for each other.

People would be respectful. No teasing. They would include everybody and a whole list of things of that sort. The class will then talk about how we can create that. That’s that win-win mentality to getting out of the competition, beating other people, and being the best kind of mindset, which sometimes, oftentimes, or usually, takes away from the spirit of the class. I want kids to know that they can raise the anti.

They can start being just as concerned about their partners and their classmates being successful as they are about themselves being successful. I don’t say don’t be successful yourself. What I say is you can also be looking out for other people and try and raise them up by encouraging people, etc. That also pertains to conflict resolution. If you’re having a conflict with someone in your class, in our camp, in life, with your sibling, or with your parents, it’s good if you come to the table with that mindset of, “I’m going to be just as concerned about my adversary’s needs and what they need as them of mine. I want to make sure that they win too.”

In order for you to develop that kind of mindset, it does take a certain level of maturity. You have to be willing to look out for the other person. You have to be very empathetic. You have to be interested in their needs and then win as well if we get to put the relationship ahead of winning and being right, which is not always easy. The culture trains our kids to do the opposite. Our culture teaches all about you and you, me being the best, best team, best college, straight A’s, and this and that. It’s a very competitive culture. All competitions are not wrong or bad. It’s just we overdo it a lot.

Competitions are not wrong or bad. It's just that we may overdo it a lot. Share on X

The idea for kids is when they’re talking to each other, you want to look for a solution that neither of us came up with. There would be a third solution that would put together both of our needs, so when we walked away from this conflict resolution time, we both would be saying, “That works for me. It’s not 100% where I came in here looking for it, but it works. It’s good enough.” If I can come away with that win and my partner walks in the same way, that’s the kind of feeling we want to create in our relationship. It will cause us to be closer. That takes a level of maturity and a different kind of mindset.

I also talked to kids about the importance of keeping their power. One way to avoid these conflicts is not to get triggered by people, not to get triggered by people’s words, not to get triggered by hearing a rumor about somebody talking about you, believing it, and then creating a whole bunch of drama around that. They can learn to not let words and rumors get to them and trigger them into creating more and more drama. I talked about keeping your power in a previous episode.

Another interesting concept that I heard about and that I teach kids is I estimate how they feel if I pull out my wallet, count out $86,400, and hand it to them scot-free. I don’t need anything in return. I just want to gift you with $86,400. Most kids would be like, “Great. It’s awesome. I’d love that kind of money.” I would say, “What if you go home with that money and your little brother sneaks into your room, steals $10 of that money, and doesn’t tell you? How would you feel?” “I’d be disrespected. I wouldn’t like it. He’s always doing things like that, but I’d have $86,390 left so it’s not that big of a deal. I don’t need to yell at him. It’s not that much.”

The metaphor here is that there are 86,400 seconds in every day. Are you willing to let someone’s teasing words, their disrespectful words, their 10 seconds of that cause you to have ruined your whole day, the other 86,390 seconds in your day? It may not be worth it. It might be more valuable to just let it go. It’s not that important. I don’t want to give my power away. I don’t want to allow them to control my mood and my happiness. I don’t like what they did, but it’s not worth it. I’m not willing to do that.

Sometimes you can avoid conflicts by just telling yourself, “It’s not that important. I’m not going to let it be important. I can shrug it off.” They’re disrespectful, whatever. Walk away and you haven’t given away your power. You’ve avoided a blow-up or some drama. The other thing is I saw this quote somewhere a long time ago and I can’t remember where I saw it. It is something to the effect of, “You would never need to forgive people if you never condemn them.”

That works into this discussion of resolving conflicts. Oftentimes, it becomes people with bad feelings about each other, people doing hurtful things, and saying hurtful things. We talk about forgiveness. I did an episode about that a while back on how important it is to do that for people so they can let go of feelings and all. You would never need to go through all that if you never condemn them, if you learned how whether with the 86,400 seconds metaphor, if you learn to not let those things get into your skin.

You would never need to go through all that if you never condemn them. Share on X

If you didn’t condemn people and their actions, you’d never need to forgive. In our camps, we have a whole process that we teach kids, same thing with our Strong Girls, Strong World school program. Those are Steps to Resolving Conflicts. We changed the name a couple years ago. Some kids in one of the schools we’re working at didn’t like that name. They like the name Courageous Conversations better. That’s what we’ve been calling them, Courageous Conversations, because it does take courage to call someone out and say, “I want to talk to you about something.”

I’m going to briefly go through these steps. These are the steps to resolving conflicts. First thing, what we always encourage kids to do is to ask permission from the other person, which might be their sibling or their friend. It might be you, mom or dad. You say, “I have something really important I want to handle with you. Is this a good time?” Sometimes kids aren’t ready to have a quiet, calm conversation. They’re too angry. They’re still too worked up at that moment. It’s okay for the other person to say, “I need to go calm down. I’m too mad right now. How about we do that in an hour?”

Your kids may come up to you as you walk in the door from work and say, “I need to resolve this. I’m upset about something,” and you’re just not in the space to calmly listen, so it’s okay to say, “Can you give me an hour? I need to take a quick walk. I need to let go of my day of work. I want to hear you. I know it’s important. Since I want to be there for you, I need a few minutes to get my act together.” It’s okay to ask permission. It’s okay to say no and to put it off for a little while, but make sure you come back and do it when you say you’re going to do it.

The other thing we teach kids as a second step is to affirm the friendship. This is why I want to do this, “I’ve been feeling dissent from you lately. It seems like we haven’t been talking. We used to be best friends and we’ve been hanging out with different people. I don’t know why. I feel like we’ve been avoiding each other and I don’t like it. I miss our friendship. I miss spending time with you. That’s why I want to handle this conflict.” In some words, it’s like that. They can let the other person know, “This is why I’m inviting you to the table. This is why I’m inviting you to talk to me about what’s going on.” You see that that perks up the other person’s ears. They may care about that person as well.

Raising Daughters | Girl Drama
Girl Drama: “This is why I’m inviting you to the table. This is why I’m inviting you to talk to me about what’s going on.”

 

You start the conversation in that way. We then talk about the old I statements. That’s the next part. You don’t want to say, “You’re always saying this. You’re always doing this,” because that usually makes the other person defensive, less likely to listen, and listen in a way that you want them to listen. It’s much more effective to say, “I’ve been feeling hurt when blank and what I want is blank. I’ve been feeling disconnected from you in the last few months. I feel like it started with our arguing at recess. What I want is for us to patch it up. I want to get back to where we were.”

The Power Of Resolving Conflicts Peacefully

The other person’s job then is to mirror, and we teach kids how to mirror. We have a couple of the sentence stems, “What I heard you say is that you feel like we’ve been distant lately, we’ve been avoiding each other because of an argument we had at recess, and you want us to kind of get back together. Is that right what I hear you saying?” and the first person can say yes or no. Sometimes they’ve heard it fine. Sometimes they’ve heard a part of it, but they missed an important part. It’s okay for that first person to say, “You missed this part,” and then to repeat it.

We Teach Kids How To Mirror

I always teach kids to give a paragraph of information, not a book. It’s because if they go on and on for five minutes, the other person zones out and they forget half of it. Same way with your parents. Give each other just a paragraph to allow the other person to be able to stop and say, “Let me make sure I got that so far. Right here, you’re saying this and that. Did I get that right?” If they say, “Yes, you got it,” then I would say, “Tell me more about that.” There’s usually several layers to what’s going on.

You listen to some more, then you mirror that back, and you say, “Did I get you right? Tell me more. What else? I don’t understand. Tell me more about that.” You’re not allowed at that point, if you’re the listener, to ask questions or give advice. You’re just trying to get in their shoes and see it from their point of view. You’re just listening.

That sounds so easy, but I know a lot of you who are reading this would say, “Sometimes it’s hard to do that,” because you have things to say. You have advice to give. You want your kids to see things from a different point of view. They’re giving you “wrong information,” but that’s less important at this moment than just hearing them, hearing how they’re seeing it, getting in their shoes, and seeing it from their point of view. You keep listening and mirroring until they feel like you got it.

When I’m working with kids at camp, retreats, or in our school program, I’ll ask one further question of the person who started sharing. The question I would ask them is, “What do you think that bothered you so much?” This is where it can get really interesting. This is where you unpeel the onion skin a little bit. For instance, we were working at a school several years ago. We have a circle in the classroom. We were teaching the kids these steps, then we always asked for a volunteer, “Anybody want to work out a real conflict? Not a fake one, but a real one.” Doing this program Strong Girls, Strong World for many years, we’ve never not had a volunteer. That’s what I want to say.

Sometimes they look around like, “Is this okay?” and we remind them, “Nobody’s in trouble. This is a good way to practice this. For all of you watching, you can learn these steps too.” Someone will volunteer. We ask them to ask permission. The other person says yes, they come into the circle, and they start to process. This happened to a school a dozen years ago. This one girl said, “I’ve been upset with you because, on the first day of school, we were lining up to do something and you butted in front of me and didn’t even say anything. It hurt my feelings.”

The other girl mirrored, “It sounds like what you’re saying is that, on the first day of school, I butted in front of you when we were getting our books or something, and that bothered you. Did I hear you right?” “Yes, that’s right.” “It’s okay. Tell me more about that.” To make a long story short, what this girl ended up saying to her friend was she was new to the class. This was the first week, the first day of school, and she had changed schools. She was in fourth grade. She changed schools because, at her previous school, she’d been bullied a lot, left out, teased, and made fun of. The parents called and tried all these things and they didn’t stop, so they were like, “She needs a fresh start.”

They changed to this new school. Here we are on the very first day, somebody butts in line, and this girl went right to, “Here we go again.” I don’t think it necessarily meant that, but that’s the way she took it so it made sense. As this other girl is mirroring her back, she also could see, “It makes sense now why that bothered you so much because you’re wanting a different or a new start, hoping that you could make friends, and then I did that and you feel like I was being mean to you. That makes sense. I get it.”

Empathy In Conflict Resolution

Once that process happens and the first person feels heard, then we say to the other person who is listening, “Do you want to let them know how you feel about what went on?” Not a step-by-step rebuttal of everything that person said, but more like, “Tell us your point of view. How are you seeing it?” so then the other person has a chance to do that, and then that first person who gave the information mirror. They mirror until that person feels like they’ve been heard.

Creating A Win-Win

Once you get to that point, then you say to them, “Now that you know how each other is feeling, how can you work this out in a way that works for both of you? How can you create a win-win?” For instance, with those two girls I talked about, their win-win for them was the one girl apologized. She said, “I didn’t do it on purpose. That was not my intention to be mean or anything. I understand why. You can count on me to be more respectful and to be more sensitive.”

The original person who sent the message made a commitment to the girl that if something happens again, instead of sitting on it for two months, she’ll go right to her, work it out, and then move on because what happens for girls a lot is they hold on to it. They’re so afraid of confronting people. They’re so afraid of making the other person mad. They’re so afraid of losing that friend. I talked about this in an episode about the tend and befriend reaction that girls and women have. They’re so worried about losing that friend or a whole group of friends that they will avoid handling the conflict directly because of all those fears, but the feelings don’t go away.

Girls are so afraid of confronting people. They're so afraid of making the other person mad. They're so afraid of losing that friend. Share on X

Sometimes one girl says, “Sorry about that,” and another girl says, “No big deal. I don’t care, whatever,” but it is a big deal. There are still feelings left over that are still there and then they fester. Because she’s avoiding the other girl because she’s upset with her, the other girl senses, “That girl doesn’t want to be friends with me,” so she avoids her, then this little drama plays out under the surface or sometimes above the surface all because of a misunderstanding. When we’ve worked with schools, a lot of times, girls are not talking about necessarily what happened last week or this afternoon.

They often talk about things that may have happened a few years ago. They’ve never let go of it. It’s been causing these kids to not be friends, to avoid each other, and maybe talk bad about her to other people, which creates more drama all because of misunderstandings that they could have handled quickly and efficiently. We need to get girls’ permission to do that. It’s not being mean. It’s not being aggressive when you grow up and confront someone. You’re not screaming at them. You’re asking them to sit down and have a heart-to-heart conversation. I remember one time, years ago, we were in another state.

We were doing a day-long little retreat with a class of eighth-grade girls. We asked anybody who has a conflict who would like it to be solved within the group. One girl said, “I do. I have something I want to handle.” She had a talk with three other girls, so they set there. We said, “We only want one of you to talk so it’s not like you’re being ganged up on.”

This girl proceeded to tell those three girls how she had felt left out this school year. She felt like they had been avoiding her, that they had all been best friends, and that it hurt her that she was missing her friends a lot. One of the girls mirrored her back. That took a couple of different back-and-forth mirroring. We talked about, “When did it happen?” She said, “It started at the beginning of the school year.”

To make a long story short, this is the gist of the story. That girl, who had initially shared, had been picked up to move up and play with the freshman volleyball team, which is a big thing at this school. She was making some friends with the upper-class women with a lot of freshmen who were in the class, which was fine, but the other three girls who were on the volleyball team previously with her in the middle school team felt like, “She thought she’s so cool now that she’s hanging out with the other upper class. She’s got these friends who were freshmen. She’s too cool for us.”

Because that girl had been staying more time with those people because of being on a different team, she wasn’t ignoring her old three friends. She just didn’t have as much time as she did. Because they were feeling that way, they started to give her those little eye-rolling looks. They were avoiding her, so she interpreted that as, “I guess they don’t want to be my friend anymore.” She had started to avoid them.

The drama unfolded, and now here’s where they’re at. We then asked the girls, “Why do you think it bothered you all so much that she was on that upper team?” They each had stories about having older siblings who were the star athletes in the house and how they’d always felt less than and never good enough. It’s like they weren’t getting enough or as much attention as their superstar sister.

That’s why they were sensitive to that girl moving up to the higher team and that’s why jealousy emerged. They talked it through. They made some commitments about being friends again and finding time for each other. If they had something that was going on, they were going to talk to each other instead of letting it fester for 3 or 4 months. They then hugged and moved out of the circle.

I would give your kids the skills to be able to do that. You can start with conflicts with you. You can start by helping them learn how to handle conflicts with their siblings in the same kind of way. You can give them these skills at home, like when brothers and sisters or sisters and sisters are fighting at home. I would get out of the role of being the lawyer or police officer, coming in there like the judge, deciding who started this, who’s right, who’s wrong, who’s going to be punished, and who’s going to jail.

Raising Daughters | Girl Drama
Girl Drama: You can start with helping them learn how to handle conflicts with their siblings the same kind of way. You can give them these skills at home.

 

Instead, walk into that conflict scene with the intention of, “My job here is not to figure it out. I don’t care who started it. This is your relationship, not mine. My only job here as your mom or dad is to teach you the skills on how to solve these kinds of conflicts without needing me or another adult. I need to teach you how to face each other, listen to each other, and mirror.”

It’s like those steps for conflict resolution. Come to a solution that works for both of you. It’s not my job to figure that out for you. I do need to teach you those skills. Otherwise, how would you know? It doesn’t take twenty years. It just takes a few times. We teach this to kids and teens at camp. It doesn’t take very long for them to learn how to do it.

They love doing it because, in the end, it’s like a huge weight is lifted, “I’ve been holding on to these feelings and this anger or frustration for 6 months, 2 years, or 4 years. It feels so freeing to let that go and come up with a solution that works for both of us.” I asked kids oftentimes and adults. I used to do more team building things for school staff, businesses, and things. I would do an exercise that I learned from Stephen Covey when I went to his conference.

I’ll call up a volunteer, stand in the middle of the room, and do that “arm wrestling” thing. I’d say, “Let’s just sit down, put your elbow up, and grab my wrist. Every time I can get your hand to touch the table, I’ll give you $1, and if you get mine to touch a table, then you win $1. We’ll see who can win the most dollars.” Everybody in the audience is laughing and then I start to pump it up.

I’ll be like, “By the way, I know I’m not that big, but you’d be surprised I’ve been doing this for a long time. I have won arm wrestling tournaments. I’m a middle-aged man and you may think, ‘This old guy,’ whatever, but you know what? I think you’re going to be surprised. I’m going to kick your butt.” The other person is now ready. They’re ready to show me. We put our hands together. We’re locked. It’s tight.

I’ll say ready, set, go, and then as soon as they push, I let go. I let them win. We go back up. “Let’s do it again. Sorry. Ready, set, go.” I let them win. I do that 2, 3, or 4 times. At first, they’re like, “What’s going on?” but then they start to understand, “This is different,” and then they stop pushing. I’ve never had someone not stop pushing. I’ll ask them, “Why are you not doing that?” They’re like, “It’s not fun.” The fun is in the resistance. The fun is in the power struggle. You get a tremendous sense of power from going back and forth and resisting people and all that. It’s not as much fun when someone says, “I’m not willing to play that game.”

What I would say to them is, “This is about our relationship more than it is about me winning. I want both of us, if you’re willing, to have a mindset that says, ‘We’re not going to walk away from this table until both of us feel like we win.’ If we can’t come to that that it’s a no-win or it’s a win-lose, then I think we need to stop now.” We both have to come up with the intention that we can figure this out. It may take a few minutes. It’s okay. What we need to do is get in each other’s shoes, rely on our empathy to hear each other’s needs, and understand them at a deeper level.

Raising Daughters | Girl Drama
Girl Drama: If you’re willing to have a mindset that says, “We’re not going to walk away from this table.” That feels like a win.

 

When you do that, you’re much more motivated to create a win-win. That’s what you do. I ask them, “How many people does it take when there’s a fight or an argument? How many people does it take to be in a win-win mentality or to create a win-win solution?” Almost everybody says, “It takes both people.” I say, “No, it doesn’t. It just takes one of you to come to the table with a level of maturity, empathy, and compassion to be able to say, ‘I want us to do this differently.’” With your empathy and compassion, you can win them over. You win their trust, “We’re going to it differently this time. We can walk away with a different kind of solution.” That’s so powerful lesson for kids.

I will put the conflict resolution so you can check those out and use those with your kids. Use it with sibling rivalry. Use it if you have a conflict with them yourself. Practice, model, and be patient. Even adults usually are not used to mirroring like that. We’re so used to just interrupting, jumping in, and saying, “That’s not true. Why don’t you just do this?” That is illegal. I have girls and their parents in the office and they’re going through these conflicts. I will stop them and say, “Timeout. That’s against the rules. You cannot add to it right now. You just listen.” 9 times out of 10, it’s the parents who are not listening. The kids pick up on this quicker in my experience.

A couple of quotes to end us here. One of them is, “No matter how much dirt you throw at someone else, you will always be dirtier.” “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.” That’s from Gandhi. “Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” That’s from Malachy McCourt. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “My enemy is someone whose stories I do not know.” Abraham Lincoln said, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” I love that one. It’s a heavy deep one, isn’t it? “When you hold resentment towards another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and go free.” That’s from Catherine Ponder.

Martin Luther King had a quote too, “People fail to get along because they fear each other. They fear each other because they don’t know each other. They don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.” That holds true for resolving conflicts peacefully. Oftentimes, you don’t take the time to get to know the person, their needs, what’s important to them, and why things are bothering them so much. When you have a class that becomes a 30-30 class who cares about each other, they don’t use information they hear about each other to hurt each other. They use it to be more sensitive to each other.

One Word, One Hug, One Wmile

That creates a whole different kind of feel in a classroom, a group of my campers, in a business, in an office setting, or wherever. It’s that kind of care and commitment to each other in your relationships. One final quote and this is from Israelmore Ayivor. It’s a great quote. “One word can end a fight. One hug can start a friendship. One smile can bring unity. One person can change your entire life,” and I added to this, “One girl can change the world.”

One word can end a fight. One hug can start a friendship. One smile can bring unity. One person can change your entire life. Share on X

When you learn to resolve conflicts, learn to have courageous conversations, and you handle things that way, you can change your relationship. You can change your family. You can change a classroom. You can change a camp like I get with guys or girls. You can change any community when you come to each other with that kind of commitment.

Learn to resolve your conflicts. Learn to have courageous conversations with each other in a way that builds closeness, builds completion for whatever the issue is, and builds a deeper understanding of each other. I’ll be back here with a brand-new episode. You might want to read this with your daughter or son for that matter. Talk about how you can resolve conflicts together. Show them those steps for resolving conflicts so each of you can start learning to practice. Help them solve their problems with each other. I’m talking about brothers and sisters, siblings. That’s the template that they will take out into the world with friends, dating partners, and marriage partners someday, perhaps. Take care. I’ll be back here. Thanks so much for stopping by.

 

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