10 Oct Conflict is Everywhere, Here’s a Way to Deal with It
These days, it seems like conflict is everywhere. Whether its cable-TV, talk radio or the internet, people seem to have a different opinion on a wide range of topics and everyone seems much more inclined to disagree than agree. With conflict swirling all around us, there’s a tendency to think that something is wrong with our current situation. The truth is, conflict is a fact of life and occurs naturally in all kinds of settings. What we need are some tools to help us learn better ways to manage interpersonal conflict.
A model that I find particularly useful is what some experts like to call appreciative inquiry. Appreciative inquiry is just one way to better manage interpersonal conflict through non-defensive communication. The first moments of a conflict interaction – known as the critical start up – can set the scene for a constructive or destructive conflict. When a conversation begins with a critical statement, the interaction is likely to escalate quickly. Often, a person will criticize in order to get that person’s attention, or to indicate how bad he or she is feeling. However, this is not a good way to start a conversation. When you start a conversation with “you always” or “you never” it’s likely to have a destructive effect.
A better way is to use an “I” statement. Then, a simple approach known as the “Feel…Felt…Find” comes in handy.
“I feel like our relationship is not what it should be”
“I have felt this way before on other occasions”
“I have found that the best way to handle this is to have an open conversation about this”
Each one of these statements gets the other person’s attention without being offensive. After all, who can argue with an “I” statement? (An “I” statement is nothing more than an honest description of how you feel.) How can anyone dispute how you’re feeling? Here are a few other ways you can express yourself and maintain neutrality:
“I am having a difficult time and I need your help”
“I didn’t know that…do I understand you correctly?”
“This wasn’t what I expected…this is not what I want”
“I don’t see any solution here so I think we need to part company”
“When you told me yesterday that we hadn’t done any work for six months, I felt like shutting down”
In conflict, no one set of principles or ideas will always work, and no one set of behaviors will forever keep you out of conflict. And yet, people do have the power to alter their behavior and transcend formerly destructive interactions. If enough of us are willing to work on our own interpersonal skills and learn to communicate more non-defensively, people can work on shared objectives much more effectively.