Skip to main content

Putting Feelings To Words: A Conflict Management Strategy

By Cultures Of Dignity | February 1, 2018

Of all the things to teach students about character development and bullying prevention, convincing them to talk to a person they’re angry with is probably the hardest. For good reason, students think it’s too intimidating, won’t make a difference or even may make the problem worse. And they’re right. Young people must have an effective realistic approach that also admits how strange and scary it can feel to face the problem. At Cultures of Dignity, we have a strategy called SEAL that addresses both challenges.

SEAL is an internal process to manage yourself for when you’re angry with, frustrated with, or even worried about someone. This framework will teach you how to critically think in moments of conflict. It doesn’t tell you what to say, it shows you how to think through the problem and put words to your experience. It also reframes what success means in facing the problem–because any step a person takes to think through a conflict is a success. So…teaching SEAL is also way you for you to empower your students to critically think in moments of conflict

SEAL is also about identifying the “pushback”, the person’s response that could make you so angry, defensive, or distracted that you lose the ability to communicate effectively.

SEAL helps to clarify one’s feelings and more effectively communicate those feelings to others. You don’t “SEAL” with the expectation that the problem will go away and you don’t have to say the words in a specific order. Instead, the goal is to increase your power and improve your chance of being heard.



STOP: Breathe, observe, and ask yourself what the situation is about. Decide when and where you can talk to the person so the person will be most likely to listen to you.

EXPLAIN: Take your bad feelings and put them into words. Be specific about what you don’t like and what you want to happen instead.

AFFIRM:  State your right to be treated with dignity by the other person and your responsibility to do the same in return. If appropriate, admit anything you did that contributed to the problem/situation.

LOCK: In the relationship, take a vacation (or take a pause in the relationship) or lock it out (as a last resort)*


*If “lock out” feels too permanent, think about how relationships can be like velcro – they can stick and unstick in countless ways. So if you need to separate from a relationship (unstick) you can always come back together again.

Remember even in the best of circumstances this process is difficult. It always feels awkward. People on the receiving end can’t be counted on to appreciate what we say. But when we think through the process we will much more control to handle ourselves in a way we can be proud of.

This post appeared on CrisisGo– who provides tools for schools to increase safety awareness, improve rapid response, connect parents and school staff, and improve procedures with comprehensive data.