How to Mediate Conflict

By VOBS Staff from Voyageur Outward Bound Schools

VOMP is a conflict resolution tool that gives groups or individuals a process to voice an issue or concern and work through a restorative process to resolve it. This creates an open dialog that seeks truth sharing in stressed relationships.

Description: VOMP is an acronym for a four-step process of conflict resolution. VOMP is a restorative tool to help improve truth and open communication in a stressed relationship. It can be difficult to share or put words to how you are feeling when individuals are upset. It is something that a lot of people have trouble with. VOMP provides a step by step model for an open dialogue regarding frustration between multiple people to attempt to resolve conflict before they go too far. VOMP stands for:

V- Voice/Vent: Each person describes how others actions have impacted other individuals, or the group, and made you feel? An example being “I thought you took my journal so I took yours to use for my own” Encourage students to use “I” statements.

O- Own/Ownership: Each person accepts responsibility for their actions: “I know I shouldn’t have taken your journal but I was mad.” Try to prevent students from using “but you” statements. For example, “I know I shouldn’t have but you were egging me on”

M – Moccasins or Empathy: Each person tries to express empathy for the other person, or stand in their moccasins; “Yeah, I would have been really mad if I thought someone stole my journal.”

P- Plan: Make a plan for how to avoid this problem in the future. “Next time I could just ask the group if anyone has seen my journal.”

VOMP is a classic teachable moment lesson. If two students are experiencing an escalating conflict, step in, take the students aside and run them through these steps. Keep in mind that it is important to not try to mediate conflict when students are too angry. Ideally, give students a space and assess them one-on-one before you help them VOMP them together. It is also important that VOMP must be facilitated by a staff or neutral student. You can create a VOMP sheet to have students write things down before they meet with the other person.

Try it on: Novice: You do not have to go through each letter. Sometimes VOM is all that is necessary in one sitting. You can give students homework to consider. They have to think about the P and come together with you later in the day to discuss the plan.

Use this with two students or with the whole group. Do not use it in a group unless whatever the issue has affected the entire group. If it is just an issue between 2 students and you bring it to the group, it will actually negatively affect the group and will cause them to pick sides. This will have a negative impact on the group culture and emotionally safety.

Experienced: This is a difficult skill for a lot of people, regardless of age or experience. It is important to give people all of the steps and empower them to use the model in a way that makes sense to them. Some people will walk through each step following each letter, and others will express their feels in a more free form way that still gets to these points. Do not force students to do either way, empower them to use the way that makes them most comfortable and most able to effectively express themselves. Some people need time to plan what they are going to say, allow space for this if needed. This also helps to take some of the emotion out of the situation, making it easier to hear the other side. It is also important to pull students aside and let them know you notice their improvement. In essence, you want to “catch the doing good.”

Assessing Impact: Success with this activity is if students feel they can express their frustration to a group member or the group. This is a difficult and arduous task for most people, so if they are able to express themselves in a way that does not escalate the conflict, they have comprehended the process. It can be taken one step further when the group is able to initiate and facilitate a VOMP is a respectful and mature manner without the presence of a staff member or facilitator.

Success is also defined by how well the students follow through on their plan they agreed to. The facilitator may need to bring the students together to check-in on how everyone is doing. You should notice a change in group dynamics after the change has normalized.

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