In a world where men are taught that fighting is the best way to resolve conflict and walking away is weak, how can we teach our young men that not fighting is actually the better way?
At my school, senior students are currently learning about conflict resolution- what are the actual causes of conflict and how these factors can contribute to how the conflict is resolved. We are teaching students about compromise, collaboration, and mediation. We are emphasizing that violence is never the answer- as much as you might want to punch someone who has humiliated you or angered you- walk away. The people who are talking poorly about you and trying to get a reaction aren’t worth the response. Don’t give them the satisfaction of losing your cool.
What I learnt was that many boys see this as the ‘soft’ response. The ‘manly’ thing to do is exchange ugly words first, and then blows. To walk away is weak.
I put it to society that we need to teach our brothers, sons, fathers, and cousins, friends, men in general, that it in fact takes a strong person to walk away from conflict. That it takes self-control and mature decision making, which in turn displays strength of character, which in essence is the polar opposite of weakness.
We must teach children to think before they react to a situation. A violent response on their part can result in suspension/expulsion; assault charges and a somewhat sullied reputation. A reputation as a person, who hits first, thinks second. This isn’t what we want for teens today.
In a world where many of their celebrity heroes (particularly sports stars) end up punching people out when faced with conflict, in a society where the news is filled with violence, revenge attacks, graphic video games where violence is the answer to conflict, we have to find a way to show young people that not lashing out is actually the tougher thing to do.
For young men, it’s important they have role models who make it clear that violence should not be an automatic response to conflict, and nor does walking away or getting involved in mediation make you ‘weak’. There are options other than the primal instinct to protect your pride with your fists, and these non-violent methods of conflict resolution do not make you any less of a man.
Do you think it’s harder for males to sit down and discuss conflict resolution than it is for females? Do you think men are seen as ‘soft’ or ‘weak’ if they walk away from confrontation and conflict?
Image by Piero Fissore