Playground Diplomacy: Conflict Resolution Skills from Kindergarteners

Translated from German, the word kindergarten literally means a “garden for children,” which is appropriate because it’s during this important early childhood development milestone when the seeds of skills that impact the rest of our lives are often sown. Interwoven among the glue sticks and safety scissors, a foundation is laid through experiential learning that could influence a child’s mental, physical, and emotional growth for years to come.

In fact, the practical skills introduced in kindergarten may even affect our professional relationships and how we respond to many workplace situations. Conflict resolution, for example, is an important workplace skill that, if not fully developed, can create even more conflict in the long term.

So, let’s take it back to the basics and look at how conflict resolution skills of kindergarteners apply to our professional lives.

Don’t hide your feelings
Kids do indeed say the darndest things and if you’ve spent any amount of time around children, you know there isn’t much of a filter for what comes out of their mouths. Every thought, feeling, idea, and emotion is immediately and loudly vocalized, so you always know exactly where they stand in any situation.

Although tact isn’t a top concern for kids just starting to learn how to regulate their responses to emotional stimuli, in the workplace it’s important to follow their lead to an extent and not to demure when it comes to expressing opinions about an issue. While it should be done with more professionalism than a five-year old, speaking up and making your opinions known communicates your point of view and helps other parties involved in a problem-solving situation better understand your concerns.

Seek an outsider for input
From cutting in line at the slide to bending the rules in a game of freeze tag, in the most heated playground squabbles, it may be deemed necessary to bring in an outside authority to settle the score. In other words, it’s time to tell the teacher. Despite the risk of receiving the tattle-tale moniker, many kids’ first defense against their perceived playground injustice is to get a trusted member of the school staff involved.

Bringing in a qualified outsider to weigh in on a difficult situation between colleagues isn’t tattling. In fact, it’s an effective way to remove emotion from an impasse and hear a new perspective from a fresh set of ears that can lead to better communication about the problem and maybe even lead to a compromise that hasn’t been considered that benefits everyone.

Snack and a nap
In kindergarten, fruit snacks and peanut butter crackers can go a long way toward mitigating a cranky dispute. Add in a midday nap or some quiet time and both parties involved will emerge refreshed and in all likelihood having already forgotten why they were upset in the first place.

When it comes to a heated workplace dispute that’s going nowhere fast, sometimes the best solution is to take a break, grab a bite to eat, or even table the conversation until the next day when you’ve had some time to sleep on it and reconsider your position on the matter. Exhaustion from arguing over an issue all day can do a number on your psyche, so time to refocus can help put communication back on track.

Nothing’s impossible
Perhaps the most important lesson we can learn from kindergarteners is that nothing is impossible. In a five-year old brain, there are no assumed constraints, so logical solutions to difficult situations may include everything from unicorns to dragons to superheroes. Nothing is too off the wall.

In the workplace, if no progress is being made on a difference of opinions, it may be time to think way outside the box for a solution. There may be a more creative approach nobody entertains because it seems completely unfeasible at first glance. But if nothing else seems to work, why not take a chance and embrace the absurd.

Kindergarten is only the first step on a long path toward adulthood, but the lessons that are learned in that first year of school can last a lifetime. When conflict arises in the workplace, thinking back to those most basic skills may be just the refresher that’s needed to move past a disagreement and get back to working together as a team.

What skills or lessons did you learn in kindergarten that have followed you into the workplace? Let us know in the comments section below!

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4 Responses to Playground Diplomacy: Conflict Resolution Skills from Kindergarteners

  1. Nina September 5, 2017 at 8:02 am #

    Longevity requires forgiveness. In many schools, Kindergarten is just the beginning for doing life the next twelve years together in the same school system. Learn to forgive others on the playground, even if the offender does not acknowledge their offense and ask for forgiveness. Forgive anyway. You may end up dating that person when you turn 16! In the workplace, your offender may never acknowledge their offense, whether it was a petty slur or getting the spotlight that should have been yours. Forgive your co-worker anyway. They may end up being your boss one day!

  2. Mia Meyer September 5, 2017 at 9:43 am #

    This was awesome! Lately, I feel like I am the rope in a game of tug-of-war. Often, it is because myself and others in the office do not have good conflict resolution skills. I take things home in my head and they fester. Going back to the basics is great advice!

  3. Lynda Muscolino September 5, 2017 at 11:00 am #

    Great article!

  4. Joyce Tackett September 13, 2017 at 1:30 pm #

    I have to agree. It is a great article. Kids do say the darndest things. At that point of life, kindergarteners are very innocent, asking a lot of questions until someone answers them. In return, hopefully receiving the information they’ve been wondering in their pretty little heads. They’ll never learn until they ask. I was told growing up by my Father to ask a lot of questions, so I did. Ninety-eight percent of the time it has paid off. That brings us to ask more questions and wanting to research which leads back to “nothing is impossible, there are no assumed constraints, so logical solutions to difficult situations may include everything.” Matter of speaking, kindergarteners have a positive outlook on conflict resolution skills. Either it’s resolved good, bad, indifferent and or forgotten. They move on to their next challenge!!

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