Verbal Aikido is a means of communication that enables the practitioner to transform verbal attacks, both effectively and peacefully. This philosophy comes from the Japanese martial art of Aikido that seeks to transform ‘attackers’ into training partners. It’s a fun and easy-to-learn approach that can be learned from ages as young as 5 years old. Regular practice of Verbal Aikido considerably increases self-esteem, altruism, and the confidence to manage conflict in a self-affirming and harmonious manner.
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The holidays are a time filled with catching up with old friends and family. Since electronic communication has taken over the world; the face-to-face conversation has become a difficult one to hold for many people. Therefore, below is a list of do’s and don’ts on how to generate successful dialogue with your relatives and old friends.
DO listen attentively. A conversation should be a back and forth effort, and for that to occur you must be able to listen and respond to what the person is saying. It is important to make eye contact with the person speaking, give a nod or some other sort of acknowledgment that shows the person you are listening such as, “That must have been exciting for you”.
DO ask questions. My mother once told me that if I ever find myself stuck in conversation to ask the person questions about themselves and I found this to be very successful. It is important to ask open-ended questions – ones that cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” For example, “How did that impact the kids when you moved to the new neighborhood?”
DO end the conversation. I say this one because once the conversation begins to taper off people don’t know how to conclude the dialogue politely and what transpires is an awkward ending or silence. Therefore, when you notice the conversation has reached its end, add a few comments or appreciative remarks to conclude. Every good conversation has a beginning, middle, and end. Simply say, “I appreciate you sharing that experience with me.”
DON’T use your cell phone unless it’s an emergency. People today are constantly connected. It becomes difficult for two people to have a conversation if one or both of them are checking their social media or texting others. It also sends the message the person you are currently face-to-face with is not as important as the person on the other end of the phone. So, therefore, put the phones away even having them out in plain sight can be distracting.
DON’T interrupt. When the person is speaking, don’t cut them off to share your insight or personal story, or finish their sentence if you anticipate it’s ending. Both would imply that you were not actively listening to what the person was saying and don’t think what they are saying is important.
DON’T discuss or make jokes about taboo topics. Nowadays, we don’t always know where people, including our family and friends, stand on politics, religion, healthcare, and other sensitive topics – including our family and friends. Therefore, it is best to politely change the subject or avoid making jokes about sensitive material to maintain a successful dialogue.
Conversations with old friends and relatives during the holidays does not need to be an awkward exchange. Instead, use these Do’s and Don’ts to help increase the chances of a successful conversation.
Abigail R. C. McManus M.S. Negotiation and Conflict Management
I recently brought out all of my conflict management textbooks from hibernation. As I was flipping through the pages, I stumbled upon one of the topics I recalled finding fascinating when I was in school. A Conflict Spiral defined by Dean G. Pruitt and Sung Hee Kim is, “escalation as a vicious cycle of action and reaction. One party’s punishing action provokes punishing retaliation by the other side, which in turn prompts increased retaliation from the first party.”
The term resonated with me because I have seen conflict spirals occur throughout my entire life but never knew this behavior had a name. So for example, when I was younger maybe nine or ten, my older brother and I had a pretty contentious relationship. At some point, we got into this battle where we hid one another’s things. It started off simple; he hid my favorite doll then I hid his favorite Nintendo game. He retaliated by hiding all my Dollhouse people; I countered by hiding his favorite CDs. We continued back and forth until eventually, it escalated to my brother holding my bedroom shut until I told him where his belongings were.
The example may not show the most catastrophic result of escalation; however, you can get a general idea. The most recent damaging conflict spirals I have witnessed has been on social media following the results of the elections. I witnessed people who voted for the opposing parties begin with harmless discussion over one particular topic, and after some tit, for tat back and forth the conversation quickly escalates to both sides calling one another names and vowing to “de-friend” both on social media and in life.
A conflict that spirals out of control can have damaging consequences between the two parties. Therefore, it is important to understand how to de-escalate a problem before it reaches that point.
- Recognize your triggers. Be mindful of your reactions to the things the other person is saying and doing. Take deep breaths and take the time to think before you speak. We often get hyped up during a conflict especially if we are feeling attacked; therefore, it is important to be self-aware during a conflict.
- Ask Yourself: What is the root conflict issue? In addition to number one tip ask yourself what this dispute involves? Often, the discussion goes from being about one topic and escalates to something else. We take low shots, insult the subject matter the other party is passionate about, and most often we cause our opponent to get defensive. We fight from emotions so we must become aware of the root of the actual conflict.
- Listen and be open-minded. Differing opinions and viewpoints can be a good and a bad thing depending on how you handle them. If you listen with the intent to be open-minded then perhaps you can extend your understanding of a differing viewpoint.
- Walk away. It may be more of an abrupt ending to a conflict; however, walking away from a conflict that is quickly escalating to a damaging point may be the quickest and simplest way to de-escalate a conflict.
Look out for the conflict spirals in your life and determine your best strategy for de-escalation.
Have a Good Week,
Abigail R. C. McManus M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management
It is a familiar story:
College student lives away from home and gets a taste of independence. They can stay up as late as they want, come and go as they please, eat whatever, where ever, and not have to worry about keeping their room clean or following the rules of their parents. College student excited for break returns home with the presumption that their parents will treat them differently because they are now an adult who has been living on their own and who makes up their rules. A college student comes home and finds their parents are treating them the same as when they were in high school. They have a curfew; their parents are nagging them about helping out around the house and forcing them to visit with family when they would prefer to be spending time with their friends who were also away at school. Conflict arises and what was supposed to be a nice, relaxing break has now made the college student longing to be back at school.
Parents move their college student in at school. After a tearful good-bye, they hope and pray that their child makes the right decisions and all the good habits you have instilled in them will carry on at school. Parent’s miss college student and gets excited about Thanksgiving and Winter Breaks because they will get to spend time with their child who has been away at school. College student returns and they are different from the child they moved in at school. They suddenly think they can do whatever they want; come and go as they please, sleep into the late afternoon, not help around the house, and spend all their time with friends. Conflict arises and what was supposed to be a nice break filled with quality bonding time with college student has now made the parent dreading the summer break.
Can you see where the disparity in what the college student and parents think Thanksgiving and Winter Break will be like and how it can cause problems? How can we be pro-active so the holidays can be a joyous time for all?
First, acknowledge the possibility of change. Are you a college student coming home this holiday? Recognize that you are still your parent’s child despite your new-found independence. Be aware that they have missed you and that they may need some time to adjust to the changes you have made as a young adult. If you are a parent, you need to acknowledge that your college student may have changed since you dropped them off. They are still your child, but they are also becoming an independent adult.
Second, communicate and prepare. Before your college student comes home, it’s important to have a conversation about expectations. Yours and theirs. Will there be a curfew? How much time will be spent with family? How much time will be devoted to friends? What chores will they be responsible for while home? It is important that this is a discussion, and not the parents telling the college student what is going to happen. Parent’s remember your college student is not in high school anymore and certain rules may need further negotiation with an open-minded discussion. College students keep in mind; you are still under your parent’s roof which means to respect their way of life and their house rules.
Lastly, be patient. It may be difficult once your child returns home for them to recall the expectations discussed in earlier conversations. It is important to be patient through these adjustment periods. What may not be working this time around can be noted and discussed for the next holiday break.
The goal is that everyone has an enjoyable Thanksgiving and Winter break that remains conflict free or at least managed well. The first step is to be proactive before things get out of control and misunderstandings lead to long-term hurt feelings.
Have a good weekend,
Abigail R. C. McManus M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management