First posted on CoRe Jolts, December 7, 2018.
It’s that time of year again – the time when gift lists abound. You’ll see lists of ideas for teachers, doctors, or firefighters, for 40-something women, hipsters, and wine/beer/coffee/fill-in-the-blank aficionados… But there are very few lists focused on conflict resolution. And so, once again, I’m inspired to make a few suggestions for both the conflict resolution professionals in your life and for conflict resolution professionals to offer as gifts to others.
Perhaps it’s the nature of selective social media feeds, but I’ve been seeing more and more research on the mental health benefits of temporary tattoos! Permanent tattoos have been described as a form of art therapy: they might affirm survival of traumatic experiences, honour loved ones, help to connect with others and de-stigmatize mental health concerns. It turns out that temporary tattoos can serve these purposes, too. Research explores the use of temporary tattoos in treating teen self-injury, as signals to loved ones that a little extra TLC might be needed, and their potential as medical monitors. Imagine temporary tattoos (and similar products, like unicorn bandaids) as mood signals or mood changers in conflict. How would you use them?
In a similar vein, I came across The Daily Moodflipbook last year while browsing my local bookstore. My family received a clear indication on entering my home office to expect “snarky”, “antisocial”, or just as challenging “fabulous” responses. I am now imagining its possibilities in working with clients individually and in groups: no need to verbalize feelings with a tool that makes it easy to signal current states. And, of course, signalling has the benefit of requiring self-assessments amongst participants. While I might choose “snarky” intending to give myself permission to be rude, posting it forces me to be conscious that I may be the cause of some tension if someone else is “misunderstood”.
Thinking about the flipbook leads me to query whether there is untapped potential for old trend products like mood rings, mood nail polish, or mood make-ups? Anything that opens up a conversation about mood offers a chance to prevent or manage conflict. Perhaps something to add to some team-building toolkits? Our GISH team* might just be getting mood rings to test out…
(* GISH = Greatest International Scavenger Hunt. Team Brown(Trench)Coats is team made up a high proportion of conflict resolution professionals who all insist it’s an amazing way to practice ALL of the skills! NOTE: We were runners up for the first time this year, so gifts might just be in order.)
It will be no surprise to anyone who knows me or reads my CoRe Joints blog from time to time that I’m a huge advocate of collaborative games. Finding ways to compete together rather than exclusively viewing competition as win/lose offers an opportunity to shift our unconscious biases. We learn through games like Monopoly (the game that leads to the most fights and even launched a holiday mediation helpline!) that the thrill of winning comes only through defeating others, rather than succeeding in a common task (e.g. creating the perfect fireworks show) or battling against a common enemy (e.g. an epidemic or the zombie apocalypse).
Rather than spending holiday time calling mediation hotlines to resolve disputes created by family game play, let’s consider playing something that helps families enjoy a team win – and maybe just instil a lesson about collaborative approaches to problem solving. A few possibilities:
• Zombie Fight or Flight (Yes, the game we developed at a CoRe Jolts Game Jam in 2016. Designed by conflict resolution professionals specifically to meet the need for quick play collaborative games in families, with school and work groups, and other settings where it might just be helpful to practice working together.)
• Spirit Island is on my wish list this year. Collaborative play to block invaders/settlers from colonizing the island is something I need to test out.
• Hanabi. There’s always a time when a silent game is especially desirable, and this silent, cooperative card game is easy to learn and a great prompt for discussions of communication styles.