When Marcus borrowed $25 from Jimmy and didn’t pay him back, Jimmy threatened to pound Marcus’ face into the pavement. A few months ago, the two would have met after school to fight, witnessed by classmates who called for more blood. Recently, however, their high school started a conflict resolution program.
In a conflict resolution program, disputing students meet with a mediator who doesn’t take sides. Students agree to go along with the process in good faith, to keep the conversation confidential, and to listen to the other person’s side of the story without interrupting. Both students brainstorm possible solutions, agree on the idea they think will work best, and write and sign an agreement.
Jimmy got to say he felt Marcus was making a fool of him and that he needed the $25 because his mom’s birthday was coming up. Marcus got to say he was ashamed of not having the money to pay back, and he really wanted to keep Jimmy as a friend. The boys worked out a plan whereby Marcus would pay Jimmy $5 a week, so it would be all paid back in time for Marcus to shop for his mother’s present.
Getting Control Of Anger
Anger doesn’t have to turn into violence. It was anger at racial injustice that prompted Rosa Parks to refuse to go to the back of the bus, thus starting the civil rights movement. It was anger at an employer’s indifference that prompted Bill Gates to quit and start Microsoft, thus becoming a billionaire in his 30s.
If your anger is from injustice, work to change the system. If anger seethes below the surface all the time, get counseling help. But for those times when someone pushes your buttons, here are some steps to help you stay in control:
1. Recognize your angry feelings. Your body will talk to you. You may be hot or cold or your stomach may ache. Learn your patterns.
2. Calm yourself. It helps to take a few deep breaths, to count to 10, or to think of something extremely pleasant. Do anything that will slow down your response and give you a chance to respond reasonably. It sometimes helps to do self-talk: “lt’s OK. I can handle this.”
3. Think of possible solutions that are not violent. “I’ll tell my father that I really was disappointed when he didn’t come to see my game.” “I need to make another friend so I won’t be stuck when Amy’s busy.”