Can a new system of moderated, virtual, face-to-face interaction help resolve conflicts among peers?
By Remi Alli with Laurel Dowswell
Since I was at least 3 years of age, I’ve always been interested in human interactions, in particular, learning better ways to deal with conflicts. Mostly because they were never resolved healthily. I remember going to school, attending work, or hanging within my own family; after a miscommunication, most everyone felt awkward at best or remained frustrated at worst. It always occurred to me that there should be a better way of handling a conflict, yet no one seemed invested enough to figure it out. With the assistance of technology, enabling two people to look directly at each other when they’re in disagreement—eye to eye—is a really thoughtful procedure that I look forward to more people using to hash out unnecessary tiffs to life-altering disagreements.
Years later, as an educator, I remember the first time a student came to me for help with a conflict with a peer. She wanted only to get a boy to stop making inappropriate remarks while he sat next to her, so she asked me to allow her to switch seats and to never get placed in a group with him. I complied. He later attempted to ask her what was wrong, but she wasn’t interested in speaking to him. I understood her strategy of removing herself, but wondered whether a brief communication might have helped her to assert herself and her boundaries, allow him to understand where he might be at fault and to ultimately clear the air which would allow for a much more conducive learning environment. Instead, the room felt staler, more awkward, and confusing for all.
I have dealt with many similar conflicts since that many adults and teachers alike agreed could easily get solved by creating a framework of mutual respect and facilitating a brief discussion with a neutral moderator to help ensure it goes smoothly. Engaging in this process online offers some important advantages. Ever edited Wikipedia? Asked a question on Answers.com? Read a thread within a forum? Why not hash out differences with peers, family members, neighbors, coworkers and others alike in virtual space?
The ability to discuss a disagreement face-to-face (whether online or in person) with another is a key component of conflict resolution that helps clear the air and enables us to feel more confident and less tense when next we must interact. A new system called Brāv provides trained ‘referees’ who create a safe, productive environment to promote understanding and resolve differences. Brāv instructs anyone in conflict resolution and management. In turn, these trained Brāv Ones form a community to aid in resolving the conflicts of others on our site’s face-to-face platforms. We are working to incorporate the latest technology in facial animation to provide privacy to those in need.
My students no longer dread conflict. Instead, they love learning to resolve them—both online and face-to-face. To find out more about Brāv and how you can get involved or contribute, you can visit the website and see how Brāv works.
Along with her JD, Remi Alli is a Psychology graduate of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She also holds a Master’s Degree in Health Law and Policy. Remi is the 2013 winner of the national American Judges Association legal contest and enjoys law, psychology and traveling.
Laurel Dowswell is the owner of Idea Bird Communications specializing in marketing communications for print and web with an emphasis in the scientific community. She is also expanding into journalism in the fields of democracy, human rights, and the sciences.