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How to Help Others Hear Us in Conflict Conversations

sculpture(silence)

Quick Tips

  1. Avoid rambling.
  2. Use their words.
  3. Ask yourself if what you are going to say will make a positive impact.  

How do we help the other person hear us?

Acknowledge the message.  Let the speaker know that they have been heard – this will pave the way for them to hear you.  Simply restating or clarifying what you have heard acknowledges their message.

Honor their truth.  What the speaker is saying is truth to them.  Avoid challenging their truth.  Understand that while it may not be your reality, it is theirs.   Respect their reality and point of view.

Control your voice.  Pay attention to your voice tone.  Think of a person whose voice irritates you.  How difficult is it to listen to them?

Women often have a high pitched or shrill tone, especially when they are deeply committed to what they are saying. Listen to how you sound.  You may have to work on your voice tone to make it more pleasing to listen to.

Choose your words wisely.  Pay attention to the words you use.

Reflect the speaker’s words.  Using the same vocabulary creates a connection.

Avoid rambling and get to the point so that you don’t lose the person’s attention.

Use silence well.  Often saying nothing communicates more than words.  Silence can encourage the speaker to continue if they are not finished.  It helps you to formulate your response and demonstrates that you are thoughtfully considering what they have said.  Practice waiting 5-10 seconds before responding.

Test before you speak.  Rebecca Shafir, author of “The Zen of Listening,” suggests that you ask yourself the following before you speak:  “Is what I am going to say kind, true, necessary and an improvement upon the silence?”

 

Your Assignment

In my interview with author Rebecca Shafir on The Texas Conflict Coach® podcast, Rebecca suggested an assignment that can improve listening:

  • Practice meditation. Meditation teaches us how to allow silence and how to improve concentration and focus.  If you are not familiar with meditation, you can begin with meditating only 5-10 minutes.

To learn more about this topic, listen to the entire episode Mindful Listening in the Age of Distraction

 

Patricia M Porter, LCSW

Conflict Management Expert

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The Absolute Habit: Eliminating These Words From Your Conflict Communication

information-boards-105196_1920Over the years, I mediated hundreds of cases and coached executives and business owners on how to address and break ongoing conflict behavior patterns.  A typical communication mode is the overuse of words such as always, never, should, right, wrong, truth or lie. These absolute terms when habitually used sustain and escalate the conversation. Here is an example.

Sue yells, “You always do that! You should know better than to lie to me. It is simply wrong to hide the fact that you didn’t file the critical reports on time. And now, we will incur a stiff financial penalty.”

Robert defensively states “I didn’t lie. The report was filed on time. You should never make assumptions. If you had just asked, you would have learned the truth. I requested for an extension of the deadline. The report was filed based on this new time frame. Once again, I am right, and you are wrong.”

Sue goes on the attack, and expectedly, Robert defends himself. Using absolute terms gives little room for the conversation to maneuver. Everything is black and white and represents only one perspective. We shut down a conversation instead of opening it up for further clarity. This type of exchange also causes damage and instills distrust in the working relationship. Here is how Sue might have improved her communication to prevent or de-escalate the conversation.

“Robert, I am very upset with you. I just found out that the report was filed after the deadline. In our last conversation, I thought we both understood how critical it was to file on time, so we would not incur a stiff financial penalty. I need you to be honest with me. What happened?” Sue said with exasperation.

Robert remained calm. “Sue, honestly, we are both correct. I fully understood the criticalness of filing the report on time. In fact, I asked for and received an extension on the deadline so that we could check our work for accuracy. I successfully filed the report before the new time limit. We are not going to incur a penalty.”

You can feel the difference between the tone and the delivery. If you are using this type of language in your disputes, be aware of how the other person receives your message and reacts. Here are ideas for how you might change this ineffective and damaging habit.

  • Ask a trusted friend or colleague to observe and listen for the absolute terms you frequently use.
  • Invite them to give you feedback either in the moment or shortly after that.
  • Identify words in advance to substitute the absolute terms such as “sometimes,” “mostly,” or “on a rare occasion.”
  • Self-monitor your phrases and observe how the other person reacts when you communicate. Then, adjust your tone, delivery, and phrase choices.

Keep in mind these words such as never and always have an appropriate place and time to be used. When used strategically, they educate and inform what action or behavior to refrain or to do.

Pattie Porter, LCSW

Conflict Management Expert

 

 

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Courage as a Choice: Building Your Courage Muscle

Cowardly-Lion-1In the classic 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz, I remember the scene with the Cowardly Lion who says,

Courage! What makes a king out of a slave? Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage! What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage! What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder? Courage! What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage! What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the “ape” in apricot? What have they got that I ain’t got?

Courage!

So what does it really mean to have courage especially in times of disagreement? Courage is the ability to stay strong and address what you find difficult, scary and challenging. Courage is a choice. Being courageous and fearless takes practice; it takes being vulnerable; it means making hard decisions and it requires action. Like any skill or behavior, it takes concerted effort to build.

For many people, including myself, encountering disagreements and facing escalating interpersonal conflict is scary. Interpersonal conflicts challenge our beliefs, values systems and our self-image. The closer we are to someone in a relationship whether it be our teenager, coworker, spouse, sibling, best friend, boss or neighbor, we are presented with opportunities to practice being vulnerable and courageous. So what steps can you take to build your courage muscle?

  • Name your fear or anxiety. Simply speak out loud to yourself and name the fear. For example,” I am afraid she will not talk to me anymore if I raise the issue.” Naming “it” lessens the emotional impact.
  • Take a deep breath. Breathing slows your brain’s defensive reaction and helps you focus. When building muscle, you isolate the exercise to a specific muscle group which in turn strengthens the ability to use the muscle in a different way. Breathing helps manage anxiety.
  • Set your intention. What is a new courageous goal you will set for yourself when facing interpersonal conflict? For example, “My goal is to communicate my needs in a respectful manner regardless of whether the other person disagrees.”
  • Acknowledge every tiny step you take. It is important to build self-confidence by acknowledging every small risk, step or effort in building courage as you work toward your goal.
  • Speak your truth. This is not about debating who is right or wrong. It is about speaking from your heart and being vulnerable with the other person to share your deeper thoughts and emotions. It is about being authentic and genuine to who you are in the face of conflict.
  • Listen to the other person’s truth. Building our courage muscle also means receiving feedback and listening deeply to the other person’s truth and be willing to be present with them.

These are just a few strategies to practice courage and build your courage muscle.

Pattie Porter. LCSW

 

Listen and learn more with Eric Galton and Unbearable Conflict Requires Courageous Conversations

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