California PTA: Managing conflict


The following content has been provided by the California State PTA. Please find the original content source here

Tips to prevent and address conflict:

  • Make sure that your board and your PTA have a good base knowledge about PTA. Often conflict arises just because people don’t understand how and why things happen within a PTA. Make sure that PTA’s positions and policies are well articulated by explaining how and why actions are taken within your unit. It is critical that there is a frequent reference to your bylaws; a great deal of the functioning of a PTA is dependent on your bylaws.
  • Make an effort to be informed on issues in your school and community as well as PTA. It is easier to try and resolve something familiar than a totally unknown situation.
  • Be proactive in running your PTA. Use parliamentary procedure from the beginning — it is too late to start when things get rough! Set ground rules and stick with them. Don’t forget how important a good relationship is with the principal and staff at your school some responsibility. When everyone has some ownership, they are less likely to raise problems.
  • Prevent conflict by honoring the rights of the members and upholding the responsibility of being a membership organization.

  • Goal setting makes a difference. If decisions can be measured against a consistent goal or expectation, everyone understands and again feels included – keeping unproductive conflict at bay.
  • Open communication takes work, but it’s important to people to have a chance to say what they are thinking and feeling. Sometimes that is all they need to do to resolve their issues.
  • Use active listening, and avoid trigger words such as “won’t, “always,” “never” and “but.”
  • Parliamentary procedure is a useful tool, not a hammer to pound people with. Ensure that your membership is familiar with the proper use so that they recognize business is hampered when people speak out of turn or are disruptive. Board members with good knowledge of parliamentary procedure can help out with helpful motions at opportune times. Remember your standing rules!
  • Make sure to revisit your ground rules regularly if you feel that your meetings are getting too unruly.
  • If you have an indication or an idea that something might be brewing, ask your council or district for support. They can help you with practical tips and attend your meeting if you need them.
  • Remember you can always meet another time to discuss the situation informally.

Active listening encourages all member voices. Listening makes us feel worthy, appreciated, interesting and respected. Ordinary conversations emerge on a deeper level, as do our relationships. When we listen, we foster the skill in others by acting as a model for positive and effective communication.

6 steps to active listening:

  1. VALIDATE what the speaker is saying. Acknowledge the value of the person’s issues and feelings. Acknowledge their worth and efforts to resolve the problem.
  2. ENCOURAGE the speaker to talk and express their feelings. Convey interest in what they say. Use neutral words – don’t agree or disagree.
  3. CLARIFY each one’s perception of what has happened. Ask questions avoiding “why?” Help the speaker see other points of view.
  4. RESTATE what has been said. This shows you are listening and gives opportunity to check your interpretations of what is being said.
  5. EMPATHIZE with the speaker. Shows you understand (although not necessarily agree with) how the person feels. Helps speaker evaluate their feelings by hearing them expressed.
  6. SUMMARIZE the major feelings and ideas expressed. Pull together important ideas and facts. Establish a basis for further discussion.

If you want to listen so you can really hear what others say, make sure you’re not falling into one of the categories below.

Roles we adopt when we do not hear others:

  • MIND READER – You’ll hear little or nothing as you think “What is this person really thinking or feeling?”
  • REHEARSER – Your mental tryouts for “Here’s what I’ll say next” tune out the speaker.
  • FILTERER – Some call this selective listening – hearing only what you want to hear.
  • DREAMER – Drifting off during a face-to-face conversation can lead to an embarrassing “What did you say?” or “Could you repeat that?”
  • IDENTIFIER – If you refer everything you hear to your experience, you probably didn’t hear what was said.
  • COMPARER – When you get side-tracked assessing the messenger, you’re sure to miss the message.
  • DERAILER – Changing the subject too quickly tells others you’re not interested in anything they have to say.
  • SPARRER – You hear what’s said but quickly belittle it or discount it. That puts you in the same class as the derailer.
  • PLACATER – Agreeing with everything you hear just to be nice or to avoid conflict does not mean you’re a good listener.

For more thought-provoking content on leadership topics, check out CPTA’s website as well as ACSA’s leadership tips and other articles. Don’t forget that it is crucial to take some time to rest and relax and find work-life balance - practicing everyday mindfulness will help you reduce stress, sleep better, and focus on your priorities.

 ACSA is dedicated to providing K-12 administrators with relevant content and building events that focus on today’s most important school administration issues. Become a member and join us for our world-class Leadership Summit, Every Child Counts Symposium, professional development events, one-on-one mentorship program, ongoing Equity Project, statewide advocacy efforts, members-only benefits, and much more.

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