January 26, 2017 by Jeff Lowen
Arguments are stressful and happen occasionally, don’t they? Learning conflict resolution strategies is important to turning verbal conflict into productive communication.
In theory, every single argument in life can be completely avoided. You don’t need to get sucked in. You don’t need to prove anything to anyone. In fact, you’d be better of not trying to win most arguments.
If I’d lived my life according to this theory, I’d consider myself something special. But, I’ve been sucked into so many, it was refreshing to learn that it takes more than one person to have one!
I ‘ve had some wonderful successes avoiding arguments and resolving interpersonal issues. It is definitely worth it! And here are some quick tips to put more argument avoidance successes under your own belt. First of all, you have to want to avoid them, and secondly, understand that a discussion can be much more productive without an argument.
Make conflict resolution strategies your conscious goal
The number one reason why people get drawn into arguments is that we do not have any other intention. Without the intention to resolve problems peaceably, you’re in self-sabotage territory. Proving your point at the expense of another isn’t productive at all.
“If your goal is to be ‘right,’ then welcome to isolation…”
As you may or may not know, self-sabotage is part of human nature. It’s something that we often naturally seek if we don’t consciously intend otherwise.
So there you are minding your own business. Your husband, wife, partner, child, friend, neighbor or associate suddenly shows up. They don’t have good news. They have news that reflects poorly on you and gets your blood pressure to rise.
You feel the heat. You feel your defenses rising. And you go off. Quickly, you’re embroiled in an argument that won’t end well. In fact, your argument probably proves their case against you. Did you realize that?
Start with an intention – even a goal – to settle every conflict peacefully from this point forward. You can do it. Stay calm. Let people have their say. Correct misconceptions. Allow people to hear a cool, calm and mature version of yourself. By the way, composure is sexy.
There are two basic principles when in a conflict:
1. Seek information when you perceive attack. Coming from a place of curiosity and openness until the “attacker” begins to feel like you really want to know what is going on for him or her, is the best way to diffuse things before they get started. Most attackers will quickly calm down the instant they begin to feel understood. Didn’t Stephen Covey say, “Seek first to understand, THEN to be understood?” It is tempting to either go on the defensive and attack right back or abandon the conversation when we perceive that we are being attacked. This will not address the underlying need of the attacker, which is to feel understood. Hence, giving someone the ‘silent treatment’ only perpetuates the problem.
2. Give information when you perceive abandonment. This will allow the one who is abandoning to feel like you care, that you are invested in the relationship. And, if you weren’t invested in the relationship, you wouldn’t be there. It is tempting upon noticing that the other is not talking to us, to simply ask more questions…to seek more information, as if we can pry out of them what they are not willing to communicate. This rarely works because the abandoner has already decided to withhold information from us. Giving information about ourselves that shows we are invested in the relationship genuinely addresses the underlying need for the abandoner to feel our care or interest.
It is often hard to keep going towards your goal of avoiding conflict and turning it into productive communication, especially when you are feeling attacked or have something to prove. However, if you can keep the goal of solving problems you can successfully get through the tough moments.