Resolving Board Conflicts

Getting Along
Going Along

Resolving Board Conflicts

By Liz Len*
Sometimes being on the board of a co-op or condo is like being a politician. Fellow residents look to you to solve problems. They can vote for you, or they can choose not to vote for you if you do something they dislike. You feel like you're always in the spotlight and sometimes you feel that even your best may not be enough.
In short, it's a job with a lot of pressure—and that's why, when you put six, nine or a dozen board members in a room together, tensions may rise and conflicts may erupt. It's just the nature of the beast; different personalities, different experiences with even a little dose of stress can turn the most friendly colleagues into squabbling combatants. A warring board is a troubled board —so here are a few ideas that may help your board get through the tough times and avoid major conflicts among members.
Sometimes, simply recognizing that disagreements will occur amounts to half the battle.
"People don't always have to agree, but they do have to try to understand where people are coming from," says George Anthony of the conflict resolution consulting firm Peace Dynamics Consultants. "If people get locked into a win-lose environment, they're setting themselves up to fail."

"It helps to have a strong leader to encourage people to think outside the box," Anthony adds. People in disagreement with one another "should explore options, because oftentimes, those options are solutions. And sometimes those solutions are born out of conflict. You can look at it as an opportunity."
The ugliest fights can start out seemingly insignificant in nature.
"A lot of the time what develops into animosity [among board members] starts out as a simple policy disagreement and builds from there," says Lindy Crescitelli, also of Peace Dynamics.

Before Things Get Ugly

As with any argument or conflict, taking a moment or two to really listen can go a long way toward solving the problem and helping one side understand what the other is really saying.
"Problems happen because someone states a belief that is interpreted as a position," Crescitelli says. "A position implies, 'This is where I'm at and everyone else is wrong."

Trouble also arises from simple misstatements.
"Sometimes something just isn't clear to someone," he adds. "What 'Person A' thought it was about, was not at all what 'Person B' intended. This is where third parties can help."

Let a Pro Sort it Out

If conflicts have gotten so contentious that they have impaired the ability of the board to conduct business, then it is most definitely time to bring in some outside help. Conflict resolution specialists can help individuals open up the lines of communication and work out the issues at hand. And those lines of communication should be direct between the two parties involved.
"Things that start small and should stay small can get big when people go to other people to talk about it and don't go to the people they need to be talking to," Crescitelli says. In other words, board members have to remember not to go the junior high route; talking behind someone's back or trying to work through another board member to get their message across.
Specialists also can help people broach difficult subjects at the right time and in the right mental place.
"Don't try to solve anything when the situation is heated," Crescitelli says. "Once the emotion is under control, then go to the other person to talk about things." It's important in this initial conversation to think about how each word can be perceived. "People should not use accusatory language. 'You' is accusatory. Use 'I.' For example, say, 'I'm not understanding this correctly,'" rather than barking, "You're not making any sense!"
Trying to see the other side of the story is key to resolving difficulties. "We all see the world differently depending on how we were raised," Anthony says. "We're all living in the same building or environment, but we have to acknowledge that we have differences. It's an opportunity to learn from each other, especially if we can acknowledge early on that we have these different views."
Just as most buildings have lawyers or accountants on staff, it also might be wise to have the number of a good counselor on hand in the event that problems do arise. It's always better to solve things before they get ugly.
Ultimately, avoiding difficulties means building and maintaining a sound structure for communication, keeping the dialogue going, knowing one's role on a board and remembering that everyone is in this together. Each and every board member is making a sacrifice of time and effort to serve their fellow residents. It's important to remember that, as Crescitelli says, "People don't usually join boards just with the intention to make themselves or others miserable."
Basic kindness and common sense can make life easier for everyone and help things function smoothly and efficiently.

Liz Lent is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to The Cooperator.*(re-edited slightly for space & context/link to full article below).

Making The Difference

Kids Called to Make a Difference

Library Hosts Anti-Bullying Discussion

Program coordinators feel students hold key to reducing alarming bullying rates


The headlines are worrisome. Reports of students being targeted by other students brought to the point of suicide and murder. Names like Tyler Clementi and Phoebe Prince have become symbols of a system that has neither connected to those at risk, nor those liable to take part in such actions.

New York-based educators from Peace Dynamics Consultants, George S. Anthony and Lindy P. Crescitelli brought their presentation entitled "Stand Up and Lead" to the Middletown Township Public Library on Monday night. Their goal was not to offer feel-good, anti-bullying rallies, but rather to offer a more substantive alternative.

“Children are not just the leaders of tomorrow, they’re the leaders of today,” said Anthony. Crescitelli then used the example of the child in the mall who is acting out. It is a scenario he feels everyone has seen and can relate to since that child not only affects their parents, but others within the viewing and listening perimeter as well. Anthony and Crescitelli then ask if that same persistence could be used in positive ways, which is the foundation of their Stand Up and Lead concept. It's a matter of channeling. They profess them as leaders in a mindset wherein their actions and communication can have a positive, rather than negative influence on their external situations.

For Anthony the impetus for change came not from recent events but from a notorious one in 1989. “I had majored in psychology and history and was already a teacher but that was the year of the murder of Yusuf Hawkins (in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn),” he said. Stirred not only by the horror of the original act, but also by the racial tension and violence that followed in the days afterward, Anthony said he answered a powerful calling to find ways that would make a difference before violence occurs. Anthony’s partner in Peace Dynamics Consultants is Lindy Crescitelli, whose formative years found him as a member of Students Concerned About Rape Education (S.C.A.R.ED.) during the organizations first year and serving as its' President the next at Syracuse University, New York.

Crescitelli offered a shocking piece of data to reinforce why change is necessary. “Between 2003 and 2004, the rates of suicide (among students) went up 18 percent in one year," he said. "There are also increased incidents of eating disorders, low self-esteem, and emotional shutdown.” Crescitelli added that the ease of such negative behavior has spurred on such an increase. “It’s a culture of casual cruelty,” he said.

The tools of bullying are more sophisticated, even if the intent is not, he went on to explain that with the advent of the home computer and personal web pages, the incidents of slander and harassment have been on the rise. The broadcast of personal information and misrepresentation played a role in the suicides of both Clementi and Prince, with more abuse being heaped upon Prince’s Facebook page after her death.

Both Anthony’s and Crescitelli’s direction in such a case is to react as is expected with any emotional situation. It is a reflexive response and not necessarily something that can always be controlled, but how the reaction occurs can be channelled productively. “Don’t overreact,” said Crescitelli. “Feel what you feel, record it and then delete it," Crescitelli said, of things posted on the Internet. “You may need that information if you’re called upon to make a case, you need that evidence. Take a screenshot, record what is there and then have it taken down.”

Another topic was the alarming, increasing rates of dating violence. Again, the cornerstone of the team’s approach is to assert more effective communication. Citing the most prominent recent incident, being the beating of pop star Rihanna by former boyfriend and famous musician Chris Brown, Crescitelli asks why the cultural reaction in many circles was, “Well, what did Rihanna do (to provoke being beat up)?”. Crescitelli said there are no justifiable reasons to inflict abuse in a relationship.

To that, Anthony challenged the younger members of the audience asking if they can think of people they know who are dating others that may not be good for them, and their relationship might be held together by fear or incidents of violence. The reason for the question was to reinforce the team’s original intention, that young people have the power to make change now. By speaking up, and speaking to the vulnerable, they have the ability to avert violence and offense.

Earlier when discussing the underlying causes of bias incidents Crescitelli asserted that there are no justifiable or “good” stereotypes. “Little actions, like just saying hello to the kid (who might seem unpopular), can lift them up. It can make them not feel so alone,” Anthony added. “It’s about standing up and leading, and that’s how you make a difference.” A member of the audience, Rob Lantos, was a former student of Anthony’s and showed up for the presentation in support of his former teacher and mentor. “(Mr. Anthony) got me to join his program, which taught me how to stop fights instead of starting them,” he said. Lantos is now a personal trainer and credits Anthony’s instruction for positively intervening in a crucial period of his life that could have just as easily turned negative.

Both Anthony and Crescitelli believe that the solutions to the problems they address lay in part with the empowerment of the student to lead responsibly and to use effective communication to achieve positive results. They are not always impressed by just one-day rallies and easy but ineffective responses to critical issues. “This is not something you can just wrap up in a rally by shouting 'Stop the bullying, end the bullying!'," Crescitelli said. "You have to offer the tools that go with (the participants) and not just give them something to shout that they forget the moment they leave the auditorium.”

Crescitelli pointed to the response their presentation has had, even at the United Nations, “We’ve actually made this presentation worldwide. Of course, it is tailored sometimes to the area where we give the presentation, from the suburbs to cities and different countries but the positive results are often the same.” Crescitelli is convinced that the duo's goals can be reached, and the means are reasonable and effective. “We've both been educators working closely with real students so we’re presenting the information and the techniques that we know work,” he concluded.


EDUCATING Against Violence

One of the best and most important ways
to prevent VIOLENCE is
Awareness & Prevention EDUCATION.

Mr. Lindy P. Crescitelli featured on National TV
as a guest on a syndicated Special/investigative report about an anti-rape/anti-violence issue, -focusing on athletes & rape and other VIOLENCE Awareness & Prevention EDUCATION. Here is a brief (just over two minutes only) video of some short clips from that National TV program's Special episode:


Students in the Conflict Resolution Program led by George Anthony and Lindy Crescitelli are preparing to be presenters at The United Nations on Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday.

The impetus to start this clearly successful program perhaps began in 1993 when a concern about race relations led the New York City's Board of Education to take advantage of Columbia University's training in conflict resolution and mediation strategies. Having a background in psychology, Anthony was sent in 1993 to participate in the first training. He felt like his life's work found him.

"We expect kids to make the right decisions to cope with conflict, but kids need to learn the choices they have," said Anthony. The program he designed with fellow teacher Lindy Crescitelli combines a powerful mix of being able to speak up for yourself to clarify a situation, learning about the choices you have when confronted with conflict, including seeking walking away as an option that does not make you any less strong. Hot-button issues like
rumors, homophobia, and name-calling are addressed. Ultimately the students are trained to help others find peaceful solutions too. They learn in the most effective way -- by doing.

Their belief in choosing nonviolence comes from the conviction of having experienced its power. "I used to be temperamental; got into fights, had a rap sheet, knew all the deans," said Jerlisa Jacobs. "Now I still know them, but in a different way. This program gives you responsibility; leads you to know you have three choices when you are confronted with a conflict; isolation, confrontation, or resolution. Conflict Resolution lets you vent and solve your problem."

Being treated poorly because of someone's prejudice frustrates everyone. It can be an eye-opening experience when it comes to people with whom you might assume you have nothing in common. "When people look at me they see a little white girl, cheerleader. They don;t see that I am also Puerto Rican and Jewish. It's harder to make assumptions when you get to know someone," said Danielle Stern.

"We all have problems, not just fights, relationships, family. This program teaches us how to cope. It opens your eyes to how bias can lead to hatred and name-calling. It has helped me think about the consequences before I act," said Jubin George.

"Everyone loves a skill that works," said Crescitelli. "Dr. King said that we get peace through understanding and the foundation is love. But we need tools that allow us to practice communicating that love through understanding." One of those tools is listening, he said. "A lot of the time each side feels the other is not listening. If you want another person to believe you are listening, sometimes you have to say back to them what you understood them to say." Then you can come to some agreement about what each needs. "When young people experience understanding through listening, they grow in their confidence and ability to make a difference."

Presenting Effective Strategies

To: Lindy Crescitelli, Negotiation Specialist (Conflict Resolution)

From: Ruth Greenfield, Clinical Supervisor of Social Workers (New York City Department of Education)

"Dear Lindy,

Thank you for the excellent presentation that you gave... Your presentation was just what the group needed regarding the important role they have in supporting students who are bullied by their peers. You have helped them to understand the damaging effects of bullying which often go unnoticed. Additionally, you discussed strategies that Social Workers and Guidance Counselors can use to help students while having a positive impact on school culture. Feedback from the participants was extremely positive and they felt inspired by the examples that you used from your own experiences working with students... Several of the Guidance Counselors and Social Workers expressed an interest in utilizing the skills that you described."

-Ruth Greenfield Clinical Supervisor of Social Workers
New York City Department of Education

Environmental Preservation & Conservation

Make Every Day, Earth Day!
It is good to remember that we must all
do our part to protect our environment,
including some land preservation and that
sometimes we do in the long run win victories
for environmental conservation & preservation:


Mr. Lindy P. Crescitelli
Mr. Martin Luther King III
son of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,
in the old Ebenezer Baptist Church basement hall,
where his father used to be in Atlanta, GA.


By Dan Newman, Staff Writer

For so many young people, being bullied and taunted has almost become commonplace in school, as the way a person dresses or speaks can become fodder for others who want to feel superior. On Oct. 25, students at Fairview Elementary School got a lesson in how to do just the opposite - how to be a leader and how to potentially resolve a conflict.

"Stand Up and Lead: Teaching Our Students To Be Peacemakers" was brought to the school by George Anthony and Lindy Crescitelli of Peace Dynamics Consultants. The duo has presented their program in districts throughout the state. Crescitelli said no matter where they go, whether it's an urban or bucolic environment, kids can learn these skills.

"Our main purpose every place we go is to give kids the necessary skills that they can utilize in an everyday situation," Crescitelli said. "Every kid can be a bully or a victim. The key to our whole program is reinforcement and letting them know what to do, and how to do the right things."

Anthony, in his sixth year of doing the program, explained that while the program is designed for all kids ranging from kindergarten through 12th grade, there are certain facets that are tailor-made for each age level. The pair also wanted kids to learn simple life lessons they may not have thought about prior to watching the program.

Anthony told the assembled group, "Everyone in this room can be a leader. And if you do walk away from a fight, you're still left with a problem. We want you to know what to do and how to solve the problem."
Crescitelli and Anthony explained that talking things out is always the best way. "Using the word 'I' instead of 'you' is a smart move," Anthony explained. "Instead of blaming the other person, you take on the responsibility yourself."
School Principal Matthew Kirkpatrick was appreciative that the program made its way to his school. "One kid really can make a difference and I think that these presenters definitely got through to the kids," Kirkpatrick said. "I think the kids can get a lot out of what went on today."




"The workshop was awesome with skilled facilitators George Anthony and Lindy Crescitelli from Peace Dynamics Consultants.

Students learned in a fun way how to promote respect, tolerance, understanding and to accept diversity.

Parents learned how to talk with their children and resolve conflicts at home.

Students understood what it means to be a leader in their community and ways they could improve their leadership skills."

-Sheila Gilstein
, Chairperson
Holmdel Drug and Alcohol Alliance


Pictured: George Anthony (right) and Lindy Crescitelli (left) role-play resolving conflicts
at a Holmdel Drug and Alcohol Alliance's sponsored workshop "Stand Up & Lead."


Sunday, February 16

Karate kid a victim no more

Fourth-grader gets free karate lessons,

as martial artists cater to bullied school kids

In Tiger Shulmann's Karate studio, Jordan Torres shuffles around the floor, swiftly kicking and punching a red foam cushion just like every other kid.
The fourth-grader, who recently protested outside PS 22 with his mother over beatings at the hands of school-bus punks, is no anomaly, warn Staten Island karate practitioners. In response, martial arts schools here have increasingly tailored their classes to kids who have been repeatedly picked on by bullies.
"Self-defense is generally a last resort. We teach them a style of karate to empower them with a level of self-confidence," said Ralph Taliento III, an instructor at Tiger Shulmann's in New Dorp.
While mental health professionals acknowledge karate often raises children's confidence, they also say martial arts is far from a panacea. First, victims need to know how to speak up for themselves, say experts. They warn that in some cases, martial arts may compound difficulties if the child learning self-defense uses it unnecessarily.
"The solutions are more complex than taking a karate class or walking away," said Lindy P. Crescitelli, a conflict resolution teacher. "When you're a young person and you don't know the way to talk it out, feeling confident physically isn't going to solve that."

He and fellow teacher George Anthony run a conflict resolution program, training students every year to acknowledge and stick up for loners.
"If kids are taught to stand up for those who stand alone, that gives them a sense of ownership. What schools really need to do is provide a forum," said Anthony.
Dr. Israel (Izzy) Kalman reported that even children who excel in karate classes may freeze in real-life situations. Most martial arts instructors teach kids to control their anger, which has nothing to do with strength and fighting ability, noted Kalman. "So should you take up martial arts? Certainly," wrote Kalman. "But do it as a physical fitness activity, not as a solution to daily teasing and bullying."

*(re-edited slightly for space & context/link to full article at bottom of post below:)

Teaching Constructive Ways Past Conflicts

Program teaches students
constructive ways past conflicts


Students at Fairview Elementary School in Middletown learned that putting the word "I" in a sentence instead of "you" makes all the difference in the world.
"Oh, not you again," George Anthony said. "You're a loser."
While teaching students at the school the difference between you and I, Anthony called his friend Lindy Crescitelli a loser, and by the time the lesson was over, Crescitelli confronted Anthony by saying, "Can I talk to you? I don't want to fight. I got into a lot of trouble the last time we fought."
George Anthony and Lindy Crescitelli, educators and consultants for their business Peace Dynamics, visited the school Oct. 25 for an all-day program to teach students new leadership skills by addressing bullying situations.
"Bullying can happen in any school, at any age," said Matt Kirkpatrick, the principal of the kindergarten-through-fifth-grade school. "Bullying is always a major issue."
The 40-minute sessions were conducted in the school's all-purpose room for the first-through-fifth-grade students.
In teaching the students their options when confronted with a bullying situation, Anthony of Middletown and Crescitelli of New York City told the students they had three choices: walk away from the problem, stay to fight it out, or try to communicate with each other to resolve the conflict.
Anthony and Crescitelli acted out each choice for the students. The basis for each skit was for Anthony to be getting a basketball team together. Each time, Crescitelli jumped up saying he wanted to play.
However, when Crescitelli stood in front of Anthony, Anthony called him a loser, pushed him and made fun of him when Crescitelli ran out of the room.
In this incident, Crescitelli did not stand up to Anthony. Crescitelli pretended to cry, ran for the door and left the room.
"What's wrong with this choice?" Crescitelli asked, when he came back into the room. He sat near some students and pretended to be mad. He also screamed, "What are you looking at?" when students turned to look at him.
The first choice showed the students that nothing got resolved, the problem still existed, and the victim was very angry and yelled at other people for no reason. Another outcome of this scenario could lead the victim to disassociation with others, Crescitelli said.
"He could hurt himself," said Justin Lippert, 10.
"The problem is still there," said Julia Terronova, 10.
The second choice drew some laughs from the fifth-graders, when the two men started calling each other names. Then it escalated and they started physically fighting, so the end result was effectively demonstrating another negative approach to resolving a conflict.
In this scene, Crescitelli stuck up for himself. He told Anthony he was "not a loser" and that Anthony was "a big loser." The two men pretended to be in a fist fight.
"You don't have control when you start fighting," Crescitelli said. "Someone could be seriously injured."
The second choice proved to be the wrong choice. The two people involved in the fight most likely would be in trouble with their parents, the principal and could cause them to lose friends over the conflict, Crescitelli said.
Prior to demonstrating the third choice, Crescitelli said he wanted the students to listen to the dialogue.
In this skit, Crescitelli asked Anthony if he could talk to him, after Anthony said he could not play on the basketball team.
"I would like to talk to you," he said. "I don't want to fight. I got into a lot of trouble the last time we had a fight."
"You're in trouble; I got in trouble, too," Anthony said.
After a few minutes of the "I" dialogue in the skit, the students found out that Anthony and Crescitelli were friends. But, a few months ago, Anthony got hit in the head with a basketball and he thought Crescitelli was laughing at him instead of asking him if he was hurt.
In this skit, the conflict was resolved between the two actors.
Although this particular conflict was resolved, Crescitelli said, if a student could not manage to get his or her partner to talk it out, the person trying to resolve the issue should continue his or her quest to get the other person to talk it out. He suggested asking a peer to intervine.
"Just say, could you tell (Anthony) I want to talk to him," Crescitelli said, adding if that fails, "ask an adult for help in resolving the situation."