Written by Tom Roderick, Executive Director of Educators for Social Responsibility Metro
- Slow down the action. Many fights and arguments get out of control very fast. Before reacting, take a deep breath, count to 10 to buy time to think. If possible, find a way to excuse yourself from the situation for a moment so that you can collect yourself.
- Listen well. Don’t interrupt. Hear the other person out. Making eye contact, nodding, and saying “uh-huh” are ways to show you are listening. It helps to paraphrase or state in your own words what you hear the other person saying.
- Give the other person the benefit of the doubt. In a conflict between two people, each person has feelings, each person has a point of view. You may not agree with the other person, but try to understand where s/he is coming from. Ask open-ended questions to get information about how the other person sees things. Try to listen with an open mind. If you see that you have done something wrong, don’t hesitate to apologize.
- Acknowledge the other person’s feelings. When people believe they’ve been listened to, they generally become less angry and more open to listening to what the other person has to say. Statements like “I can see you’re angry” or “You really feel strongly about this” tend to diffuse the anger and open up communication.
- Be strong without being mean. Express your needs and your point of view forcefully, but without “dissing” or putting the other person down. Use “I-messages” to communicate how you are feeling rather than “You-messages” that put the blame on the other person. Name-calling, blaming, bossing and threatening tend to block communication and escalate conflict.
- Try to see a conflict as a problem to be solved, rather than a contest to be won. Attack the problem, not the other person. Try to get away from fighting over who’s right and who’s wrong. Ask instead: What do I need? What does the other person feel they need? Is there a way we can both get what we want?
- Set your sights on a “win-win” solution. In a win-win solution, both parties get what they want and come away happy. This requires good listening on both sides and creative thinking. If a win-win solution is not possible, you many have to settle for a compromise, where each person gets something and gives up something. A compromise is a lot better than violence.
- If you don’t seem to be getting anywhere in solving a conflict, ask for help. Of course, you’ll need agreement from the other person that help is needed and you’ll have to agree on who the third party should be. But a third party can be helpful. Try to find someone who is a good listener. Tell the third party their role is to help the people in the conflict talk with each other, not to take sides.
- Remember that conflict, handled well, can lead to personal growth and better relationships. Try to see the conflict as an opportunity. Working through the conflict with a friend can lead to greater closeness. Hearing other points of view can introduce us to new ideas and increase our understanding of ourselves and other people.
- The true heroes and sheroes of today’s world are not the Rambos. They are those who have the courage and intelligence to deal with conflict in creative, nonviolent ways. http://www.esrnational.org/keeppeace.html