Situations that we believe will produce conflict, tend to be very difficult for most people. This is usually because we wish to be liked and do not want people to be angry with us. This can be further complicated when the conflict is with a boss, a partner, a family member, or where there is a potential for a physical altercation. It is very rare that we are given any training in conflict resolution. Often, how we manage conflicts will be a strong determinant in how successful we will be at work, in a marriage, or with our children.
I have a technique that I call “low and slow”. That means that whenever you get anxious, consciously lower your voice and slow down your speech. In communications, style always wins over substance. Unless we say something in a way that feels comfortable to hear, what the other person hears is anger or derision.
Avoid character attacks. Do not call the other person lazy, silly, stupid, clumsy, etc. Using “you” statements gives the listener the feeling they are being attacked. This makes the other person stop listening to what you are saying and get defensive to protect their character. Instead, use messages that start with “I”. For example, if you are in a situation that has caused conflict, you can say to the other person “I feel ______ (let the other person know how you feel) when _________ (be specific about the event that caused your feelings). This will help by making it a statement of you feel and not come across as an attack on the other person.
Always remember, you can only control how you think, feel or react to any situation. What appears to be control is simply that the other person has decided it is in their best interest to do what we want to avoid a fight. However, this can cause further resentment and lead to a bigger conflict later.
We are very protective of what we believe is our right to make decisions in our life. People are more willing to accept suggestions or requests when they are communicated in a way that clearly identifies them as solely the presenter’s ideas or preferences. The presenter needs to make it evident that the receiver has the choice to accept or reject what is being said to them. People are more likely to listen and consider things presented in this manner, where normally the immediate reaction would be to reject or dismiss.
If you are going into a situation which produces anxiety or may cause conflict, prepare beforehand what you wish to say. Remember, that your goal needs to be something that is within your power to achieve. While changing someone’s opinion or getting someone to listen to you may be goals you would like to accomplish, you may not always get the desired outcome you wish to happen. Set a realistic goal that is within your control and you will be less likely to have to deal with disappointment. State as clearly as possible the issue in a manner that will be easiest for the person to hear, utilizing the low and slow method. Remember, you can’t control how others think, feel or react to what we say.
The other part of reducing conflict is understanding is what is within your control. Know what you are responsible for. Those include only things you have contracted for. If someone asks you to do them a favor (anything you are not responsible for), you have the right to respectfully decline. You do not need to come up with a reason that is acceptable to them. If they argue, do not engage as it could lead to further conflict. Remember, that the choice is yours, not theirs. It is ok to say no.
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