“The OODA Loop”: De-escalating Conflict & Potentially Violent Situations


oakland blk minds matterWhether you work in a school setting or practically any other, conflict is almost certainly inevitable. These are times when there is an opposition of strengths between parties and principles. Unfortunately, many professionals lack some of the tools necessary for de-escalating conflict and working towards the negotiation of more positive outcomes.

Simply stated, conflict occurs when two people disagree, and often this leads to frustration which can lead to anger and if not addressed, aggression, violence and other irrational behaviors can ensue. Conflicts may turn into violence depending upon the role each participant plays. It is important, for that reason alone, to understand the principles of non-violent conflict resolution and the importance of maintaining focus on achieving a desired outcome from the conflict.

First, it must be understood that you are in charge of how you react. Attitudes must remain positive at all times while ensuring that you give the situation your full attention. Every time you communicate, verbally or nonverbally through body language, your attitude is apparent. It is best to present a professional, unbiased and positive attitude. The goal is to  redirect the other person’s behavior and generate voluntary compliance using verbal techniques.

Aggression arising from frustration is one of the prime triggers of conflict and usually happens anytime someone wants something they cannot have. Communication breakdowns, lack of adequate skills and even alcohol can be contributing factors. Regardless, the intended goal should be constant, to mitigate risk factors, and de-escalate conflict while always outcome-focused. The tactics one must employ in such situations need to be processed and implemented within a short period of time. Time is critical.

One of the best and simplest overviews of conflict resolution is ‘The OODA Loop’ developed during the Korean War. OODA stands for:





Begin to first observe all aspects of the situation[situation awareness] taking into account the totality of the situation. Then orientate the information gathered about the conflict and compare it to any training, experience and knowledge about conflicts. Next, decide on the best course of action[based on the matching of the first two steps] and lastly put the action into motion. No matter what the action is[disengage, call for more resources, make an initial approach, etc…], there will be a resulting reaction or change in circumstances and the loop begins again.

This loop can occur in a split second, and decisions  are made in high stress and volatile environments. This needs to be taken into account. Be patient, tactful, blunt, control your sense of pride and understand that IT IS NOT PERSONAL. De-escalating conflicts using verbal techniques is almost  an art form, and one must remain calm, logical and professional. If the conflict is directed at you, know that people are usually venting at the authority you represent and not you personally. By removing the personal element from the scenario, it becomes easier to be mindful that, “you are in charge of how you react”.

Here a few steps that can be followed to work towards more effective conflict de-escalation and resolution:

  • Obtain the name of the person with whom you are speaking: People respond favorably to their own name, and it makes the conversation more personal. Ask for the person’s name early and use it throughout the conversation.
  • Use Active Listening:Clarifying, paraphrasing, and open-ended questions help to ensure that the person is aware that you understand their frustrations completely. This helps lower frustration levels as it allows the person[s] to ‘get it off their chest’, and vent. Also, repeating someone else’s words back to them clearly shows your comprehension of their points on a very basic level.
  • Slow down and suspend judgment: Empathy needs to be shown during conflict situations, even if you don’t agree with the other person. Expressing your understanding of their feelings will help to resolve the conflict. Ensure you give this your full attention and demonstrate respect for the other person’s feelings and opinions.
  • Get them to say yes: It is very hard for someone to remain angry towards you if they are agreeing with you. Sounds ridiculous?? Using clarifying statements, questions and using summaries during the conversation all help to confirm your understanding their point. Example,” So you are feeling frustrated because of XYZ, is that right?” You are creating a situation where the other person has to respond with a ‘yes’, and the more often we get them to say yes, the quicker the conflict will de-escalate.   Extremely useful technique!
  • Don’t use clichés: The worst is saying,”Calm Down”. If you have ever heard these words, you know that the usual response is “I am calm”, and said at the top of their lungs, too. Hand gestures will be animated as well. So, don’t say it!
  • Express empathy: Show compassion and give the conflict full attention, without making rash judgments. Work through the process.
  • Consistency in Courtesy: The person you are dealing with at midnight is the same person you are dealing with at midday. They deserve the same level of respect, courtesy and patience. The 12th person with whom you have interacted deserves the same respect as the 2nd-be consistent and professionalism. Often, you are making both a first and last impression for someone. A consummate professional!

Verbal de-escalation tools are important skills to possess and as such, need to be honed and practiced regularly if they are to become part of our natural response to conflict situations. Training and ingraining these techniques to the point where they become second nature allows you to focus more on the fluid and dynamic changing aspects of conflict such as the signs and triggers mentioned above. This also enables you to develop a greater awareness of other situational factors. The combination of all these factors will provide the greatest chance of minimizing and resolving conflict in the safest and most positive way possible. Remember “The OODA Loop”!!!

How Do Schools Support Children Whose Parent Has a Mental Illness?


families diverseBetween one in four and one in five adults will experience a mental illness during their lifetime. At the time of their illness, at least one quarter to half of these will be parents. Their children have an increased rate of mental health problems, indicating a strong link between adult and child mental health. Parental mental illness has an adverse effect on child mental health and development, while child psychological and psychiatric disorders and the stress of parenting impinge on adult mental health. Furthermore, the mental health of children is a strong predictor of their mental health in adulthood.

School children who have a parent suffering from a mental illness, are impacted in many other ways. By nature of their parent’s mental health condition, many children are thrust into adult-like responsibilities at home and in the community and this compounds and potentially compromises the responsibilities they already have as learners at school. With this in mind, children will need extra supports from educators in these settings.

Schools are tasked with providing academic instruction, promoting achievement and maintaining safe and supportive learning environments for all students. The programming and general curriculum should be comprehensively designed to address the ‘whole child’ and age- appropriate developmental, social-emotional and intellectual needs, as well. Addressing needs, specific to the demographics, should be complemented by culturally responsive and evidence-based practices.

In general, parents and children want appropriate understanding and support based on the different needs of individual family members. This support needs to be sustained over time, but should also vary to reflect any change in circumstances.

More specifically, parents want:

  • more understanding, less stigma and discrimination relative to mental health
  • support in looking after their children
  • good quality services to meet the needs of their children
  • parent support groups
  • child-centered provisions and ongoing support and
  • freedom from fear of the removal of their child from the home.

For their children, parents want:

  • opportunities to openly and safely discuss any fears, confusion and guilt
  • opportunities to engage with adults they can trust and participate in activities where they will engage with other children
  • reasonable explanation and age -appropriate discussions surrounding mental health;they need to understand the impact on their parent]
  • continuity of care with minimal disruption of routines, esp. during crises[For schools, this means instructional continuity. Educators aren’t expected to go along as though nothing changed, but rather mindfully provide structure and the routine sense of stability for students.]

Children and young people, and those taking on a caring or adult-like role in the family want:

  • a reliable contact person in case of any crisis events
  • practical help with carrying out added adult-like responsibilities in recognition of their role in the family
  • someone to talk to-not necessarily formal counseling
  • chance to make and see friends.

Using your observational skills, knowledge and experience:

Your skills, knowledge and experience may help in noting
changes in coping, attention and presentation that may
indicate when a child or family is in need of support.
Some possible signs are:
• Poor attendance and/or interactions with others.
• Regression of development and/or emotional maturity.
• Taking on adult caring responsibilities for their parent.
• Worrying excessively about their parent’s welfare.
• Overly shy or aggressive behavior.
• Disturbed or self-destructive behavior.
• Unkempt or very changeable physical appearance of the child.
• Working very hard to obey or please adults, this may appear as ‘perfect’ behavior.

Ways you can assist children

You can help children to develop resilience by:

• Creating a warm and predictable environment in the classroom.
• Enhancing each child’s sense of responsibility and belonging. Assigning a ‘special’ role to a child can help them to feel valued.
• Being available to listen. Children respond well to staff that are genuinely interested in them, even if they know you can’t solve their problems.
• Supporting the child to use the coping skills they have and enhancing their social and communication skills.
• Encouraging and supporting the child to have positive expectations of themself and their family.
• Assisting the child to find age-appropriate information on mental illness.
• Strengthening the child’s self-esteem and resilience by providing opportunities for them to practice and achieve mastery in school related activities.

What to do if you notice changes in the child that concern you:
• Express your observations to the child’s parent(s) sensitively and ask open-ended questions (e.g. “I’ve noticed some changes in your child (or you) lately. How are things going?”)
• Use active listening techniques and reflect back to the parent what they tell you, to be sure you understand. Be calm, open and non-judgemental.
• Offer to help them find support or information. If you feel uncomfortable about talking with the parent, seek help from your school principal, counseling or other school based support staff.
• Schools have access to a range of supports for children and parents. Your school will have clear policies and procedures to support decision-making when there are serious concerns about children’s well-being or safety. This policy should outline your obligations under the child protection guidelines in your
state. When discussing any concerns with parents, consider highlighting that reporting your concerns can often assist the family to access extra support.

Build understanding about mental health and illness within the school community, and include relevant articles in your school newsletter, as well. Display posters and pamphlets in key areas around the building to promote awareness and decrease stigma. Celebrate Mental Health Week and embed such issues in the curriculum. Encourage discussion and read literature pertaining to mental health in the classroom, and include a wide range of books in the school library also.

Building relationships is always important, but with parents who experience a mental illness, the barriers can make this a slower process. It can help to find something you have in common, such as a shared interest. This could be anything (e.g. following the same sport, interest in music or the local community news). Parents have a wide range of interests and experiences. The challenge
is finding something that you have in common to help build rapport between you both.`Be positive, be realistic, be flexible and persevere in your school’s supports for families and children of parents with a mental illness. Include parents and help their child feel included and supported. It does take a village!

How do we support a parent with a mental illness at school?

The facts are that parents suffer from mental illness and due to the nature of and the stigma associated with mental illness, in school settings, parents may feel excluded from the school community. This becomes yet another barrier to engagement and partnerships are thus more challenged to develop. Physical and mental well being are not static conditions. We move along a continuum from well to unwell from time to time. When we are at the unwell continuum of well being, we may require more support from others, in order to help us recover.

Primary, and secondary schools are about more than just the education of students.Schools are the gateway to the wider school community and should be there to provide supports for both families AND their children. Since school staff have no traditional training for engaging families, many educators may need assistance to build their capacity feel better equipped to embrace, interact and collaborate with diverse populations, including helping parents with mental illness feel included and valued at school.

School staff can provide a stable environment for students, help them develop resilience, promote awareness and access to support services, and build the mental health literacy of the entire school community to reduce the stigma of mental illness.

Besides welcoming families to your school, non-judgmentally, schools can develop policies and procedures around mental health that enable parents to feel welcome and find the supports they may need. Schools can use Family Care Plans to guide, monitor and collaborate with other services involved in the family’s life. Increase supports for children, as well, while implementing programs to build social-emotional skills and developing effectively positive coping behaviors.

Help parents feel comfortable talking about their mental illness by:

  • Equipping all staff to work with families from a strengths-based solutions-focused approach, with non-judgmental inquiry within safe spaces
  • Assuring parents, early on, that it is best for you and their child if the school is made aware of any important issues at home which may impact a child in school.

Do not be afraid to use the words, ‘mental illness’, or mental health problems’, when talking to parents. However, never suggest that a parent has a mental illness…ever. Being comfortable openly discussing those things which may affect their child and their family, makes if easier in conversation. You can help pave the way for true partnering. So, although parents may be reticent in sharing information about their mental illness, they will be more inclined to do so when they understand that you are not being nosy or judgmental, but helpful and supportive, in the best interest of their child

It is important that you do not mention a mental illness if the parent has not disclosed or shared their issues with you first. Schools need to know the services available to assist families in the local area, and must communicate clearly to families about the supports and services the school can offer and how to access them. For example, a staff may say to a parent:

” Sometimes when families go through tough times they find that the following are helpful: access to financial support, information about counseling, transportation, after-school supports, etc…. If we can be of any help with any of these, please let me know.”

It is both non-judgmental, you aren’t suggesting that you see a need, and welcoming, in that a door has been opened for future discussion. Invite the possibility that a parent comes to you when a need arises and be prepared to offer feedback and  other attending/listening skills and use your observational skills to ask non-probing, questions based upon your understanding of the parent’s intended message. Reflect or echo/repeat what you hear to ensure that you understand before you offer a response.  Being aware of community-based organizations, agencies and other supportive service providers,  including help from other school-based staff is critical.

Backed by accessible, culturally responsive and appropriate resources, it can be comforting and reassuring to parents when schools and school staff can help not only their children to thrive, but themselves as well. Your school can become and ultimately must become a gateway to the community at large. By facilitating student achievement, promoting parent leadership and by supporting total family wellness, schools embrace the whole child, whole family, and strengthen the whole community!

Unpublished Photographs in History Speak For Themselves: The Back Stories


Can you tell me the name of the first African-American United States  Senator? The New York Times could have told you that his name was Hiram Revels from the state of Mississippi. They could have published this story two centuries ago, but newsworthy, it was not. Even by today’s standards, this should be considered newsworthy and an incredibly prestigious appointment. For a black man who embarks upon a campaign as a candidate for any local office, that is progress, indeed. Amidst divisiveness still lingering and some may say, flourishing, milestones in black history are awe-inspiring, yet still remains to elude widely read publications as ‘newsworthy’. Just being considered as a candidate makes a statement that provides hope for a better, more just America.

From very early in our country’s history, the advent of the camera was used as a tool that told stories. A picture is worth a thousand words-at the very least. The lens can paint pictures to be perceived in a positive light or as evidence of the inferiority and un-human qualities/attributes of blacks. It is said that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, and depending upon which side of the lens we look, we can capture images that strategically serve to reinforce stereotypes or defy the myths.

It is no secret that newsworthiness largely depends on context and for a long time, race was also a determinant. When we see the nightly news that is viewed by millions of people, in their homes and now on their smart devices, news rarely highlights or celebrates people of color. Quite the opposite. Newsworthy, in the eyes of the dominant American public, was any story about criminal behaviors. Blacks are still being photographed, captured on film, and sent into our households in a negative light.

This was the original purpose when black people were photographed by whites…to support the practice of segregation, slavery, prejudice and reinforce the notion of white privilege and entitlement. It justified unjust practices. Turn on your television, and we still see these negative images of people of color, being paraded as criminals, murderers, drug addicts in this country. That is what is newsworthy, and it tells others that it is not unfair to profile, mass incarcerate, disrupt families, and mis-educate children in schools.

Americans are force fed these images. It is not in alignment with this new liberalism or an equal opportunity society that we promote by continuing to perpetuate old perspectives. By so doing, the divisiveness, discriminatory and racist practices remain normalized-mainstream.

Sadly enough, those who hold such beliefs that would be considered wrong and widely condemned if reversed. That is a benefit of possessing empathy for others. You get it! Conveniently, however, we are unaware and in conscious denial of any personally held or systemically- embedded biases towards African-Americans, Mexicans, or Muslim people. So deeply ingrained, instead, these views are characteristics of what we call “implicit bias”. America buys it, lives it and sells it, and leads people to believe that propaganda nonsense, even without understanding how the collective ‘we, the people’ are universally impacted.

When we continue to speak with forked tongues, saying one thing but demonstrating a clear cognitive dissonance in our actions or inactions, the only change we see is backwards movement. We should be moving forward, which means traveling in the same direction…embracing the same basic goals.

The institutions that are relied upon to share the ‘truth’ with the general public are still part of the machinery of a democracy gone awry. Unintentionally, it is about money, financial gain and political power which drives conscious decisions to suppress any news information which counters the popular but imbalance unjustifiable perceptions regarding those considered threats to the status quo. It is a deeply felt fear of losing any entitlements and privileges ‘earned’ by the design and structure framed through inhumane and blatantly torturous practices. After all, the goodness which lies within us all, understands that internal guilt also resides within, and confrontations with ourselves would create massive pain.

Nobody wants this, and therefore we continue to suppress and oppress a number of groups of individuals to avoid the confrontation of the truths. Ultimately, we cause ourselves more pain surely to be felt at some point. Better now than saving it for our children and then their children and jeopardize our futures. Facing one’s self and the guilt of any past indiscretions is never pretty, but necessary if we wish to live and enjoy life. We must learn to live and let live while embracing ourselves, each with potential to thrive in an excellence uniquely determined. Fair and just must prevail, and it is at that point that we will be an undisputed and indisputable leader of the free world.

The link which follows represents food for thought and gives us an example of suppressing truths and the manifestations of racial prejudices derived from mis-information or withheld information. Take a look. Read it and share your thoughts, if not here, then hold your own private conversations. It starts with us!




via Race/Related