“Darn, I wish I had spoken up!” Most of us have had moments when someone has crossed our boundaries, spoken abusively or has aggressively argued with us . . . and we were stymied to make an assertive response. Plus there was no conflict resolution expert nearby to help you deal with the tension.
The opposite can happen. We react quickly, fiercely and defensively Bam! We are steamed up and blurt out angry comments trying to make the other person wrong and ourselves right. For sure, resolving conflict is not easy for most of us. Indeed, even the most benign conversations can easily take a nasty turn of misunderstanding. Conflict can raise its head at any moment.
To understand, deal with, and hopefully resolve conflict, let’s start with a definition.
The Business Dictionary defines conflict resolution as:
The practice of recognizing and dealing with disputes in a rational, balanced and effective way.”
Decide if you are willing to be the hero and lead the way to resolve conflict. You will need to stay in a grounded, present and adult state. Prepare to manage your own triggers. Also be prepared to witness others speak irrationally, illogically, or emotionally out of control.
Prepare to Be Present and Grounded
- Take a breath. Focus on filling your lungs and notice your breath exhale. It will help bring back your best, rational brain.
- Observe your nervous system steaming towards one of your typical reactions to conflict. Do you typically react with fight or defend, flight or flee (leave the room), or collapse (shrugged shoulders, eyes down as if playing dead)? Take another breath to calm your nervous system. If possible sit. Breathe all the way down to your toes.
- Think positively. Imagine the other person with no harmful, mean or demeaning intentions. Avoid trying to make the other person wrong and yourself right.
- Listen. Follow Stephen Covey’s fine advice to seek first to understand.
- When the going gets tough, take another breath, feel your feet and say something similar to one or two of the below lines. Use a non-defensive, self-responsible, and calm tone of voice.
Notice how many of these sentences require you to eventually listen to the other person.
12 Lines to Help Resolve Conflict
1. I really want to understand what you are telling me. Let me clarify my understanding. Then tell your companion what you heard.
2. Please help me understand where you are coming from. Please tell it to me in a different way.
3. Let me know when you are finished speaking and ready to hear my concern.
4. I know you as one of the kindest (insert appropriate adjective) people I know. This doesn’t sound like you. Is there something else going on for you?
5. I would like to book a time when we can sit down and really focus on the issue in a calm manner.
6. What you are saying is very important. I would like to sit down to discuss this further. Note: people feel more grounded in their body when they sit.
7. You speak with a lot of passion. This is obviously important to you. Please tell me what brought you to this conclusion.
8. I think your intention is honorable. Are you interested in why I feel concerned? Note: if you hear no the conversation is probably over.
9. I would like us to back up. I think we misunderstand each other. Please tell me again what it is you want. Then I will try to be clearer in telling you what I want.
10. I know we both want the best in this situation. Perhaps we need to take a break to clear the air and come back in an hour.
11. Our relationship is too important for me to continue arguing like this. What is it that I can say or do to help us come to an agreeable conclusion?
12. Perhaps it’s time we agreed to disagree.
When you find yourself in conflict, what words of wisdom, calm, and conciliation work for you?