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THE ‘NETTE EFFECT: Stepping in when there’s conflict

ANTOINETTE CONNELL, [email protected]

THE ‘NETTE EFFECT: Stepping in when there’s conflict

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I SPENT A COUPLE OF HOURS detained by some law enforcement officers last week and the week before that.

I am expecting the same will recur today.

Two local cops led the way questioning me quite a bit but I was able to put my case. There was no polygraph machine and, as it turned out, no right or wrong answers.

There were several others undergoing this same experience with me. I don’t call them accomplices, I call them law-abiding partners. Under the interrogation of these officers, we had some truths about ourselves confirmed and, on the other hand, some truths revealed.

We were taking part in a domestic violence workshop organised by the Family Conflict Intervention Unit of the Royal Barbados Police Force with assistance from the US Embassy through its International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Programme. 

The workshop has participants drawn from the media, non-governmental organisations and social services departments, among others. The aim of the workshop is to sensitise us to the escalating problem of domestic violence and our role.

Last week we dealt with bystander intervention – knowing what to do when you come across a situation where all is not well.

Instinctive reaction

Up to now my instinctive reaction is still to call the police, except maybe in the case where children are misbehaving but not necessarily in a dangerous way. Then I believe a firm word usually takes care of that.

In a more vicious attack, the probability of my intervening, I can tell you without hesitation, is greatly reduced.

I’ve broken up fights when I was younger and ended up holding just as many lashes as the offenders. Once, after breaking up a fight with my cousins, I was on the receiving end of lashes because I was on the scene. It made me less inclined to be the peacemaker in wartime. 

That may change after this workshop.

However, before contemplating any kind of reaction, we were subjected to an analysis to determine our style of conflict management. The categories were collaborating, competing, avoiding, harmonising and compromising.

Believe it or not, each category had its pros and cons.

It did not come as a shock to my colleague Michelle Arthur that I fell into the avoiding category. In fact, she predicted I would be the only one.

It did though come as a shock to her that she was the compromising type.

So if you are like me, take comfort in the fact that with our non-confrontational style, we are not likely to escalate the violence and we postpone difficulty. The downside is that using that tactic can lead to unaddressed and unresolved problems.

If you take Michelle’s middle ground approach, the good thing is that it is useful in complex issues without simple solutions and all parties are equal in power. The cons of employing this method are that it can lead to dissatisfaction and end up with less than optimal solutions being implemented.

So there!

You thought my retreating approach might have been bad. Not really.

If you adopt the competing style, the pros are that it is goal-oriented and quick. It can also lead to frustration.

The real test comes when there is an actual confrontation and you may be the difference between a cooling of heads or an escalation of tempers.

Often we won’t intervene because we are afraid; we assume someone else will; we are concerned that we will look foolish or that selfishly, it really is not our problem.

In one of the clips we watched on intervention, a woman was beating up on a man telling him to stop following her. A bystander on the same train casually walks between them eating a bag of chips.

His actions were not done in any forceful way but he did manage to help diffuse the situation. It showed that not in every case must there be pound for pound response to a situation.

In another of the scenarios, someone called the police. It was a simple act.

I urge you to try something because if you were caught in such a deadly situation, you would want help no matter how small.

• Antoinette Connell is a News Editor.