No matter how we try to understand one another, make compromises or calmly put our point across, sometimes conflict will arise. When we communicate clearly and in a ‘level’ way, we can often come to an agreement with the other. We can find a connection and establish how we can fit together.
However, this assumes that there is goodwill in the relationship. Sometimes, the goodwill has been lost or it is too late to come to an agreement.
If you find a conversation getting heated, you cannot communicate your needs or wants clearly or the other person simply cannot ‘hear’ you, maybe take a ‘time out’. Agree with the other person that you might need some time to reassess your views or cool off. Agree a time to come back and talk about the issue again. Set a time and a place. Neutral ground is a good idea, which means out of each of your environments – in a place with which neither of you has an association.
- Request a time to talk about the issue and definitely don’t talk about it when it is happening. A situation can be emotionally charged and this will only impede your ability to talk calmly about it. It may feel a little odd to arrange a time to talk in a personal relationship but giving the other person a ‘heads up’ around what you want to talk about or your concerns will allow them to think about the situation beforehand rather than feeling that it has been ‘dropped’ on them.
- Try to stay positive. Consider that if you want to resolve a situation then it’s because you want a continuing relationship with that person or you want to make a situation better. You are coming at it from a place of goodwill and a desire for things to be good between you.
- Be respectful to the other. It’s perfectly ok to be in conflict with another, it happens when we come up against objections or differences. We can be in conflict and still be polite and respectful. If the conversation starts to become abusive or heated, stop, cool off and agree another time.
In relation to respecting the other – don’t blame, criticise or complain. Below is a structure you can use to state what is happening and how you feel about it but in a way which keeps the focus on your feelings and doesn’t accuse the other. Here’s how it goes. You would say:
When you (state the behaviour the other person does or the situation);
I feel (state the impact on you);
and I would like (what you would prefer the other to do or a solution to a situation).
This structure comes from (again) Virginia Satir – it is part of a family therapy strategy to help communication called ‘The Daily Temperature Reading’. Used properly it can be very effective in maintaining respect with the other and allowing time in the discussion so that it doesn’t get heated.
There are some rules around using the whole ‘Daily Temperature Reading’ structure but for the purposes of stating your ‘complaint’ you should be careful not to blame or to use character assassination (you are selfish/untidy/inconsiderate etc) but rather focus on the impact the behaviour or situation has on you – state your feelings ‘I feel unconsidered/aggravated etc.’ (Or ‘I find it difficult to meet my targets/understand what’s required of me etc) and then state what you would like to happen.
An important point to remember is that this structure creates a request for change – not a demand. Just because you have approached the situation in a level way and stated what you would like to happen, it doesn’t mean that the other person has to meet your request.
It is simply the start of a negotiation.
If there is goodwill in the relationship, then the other person is more likely to hear how the situation is affecting you, assess whether they can meet your request and if not negotiate their position with you until you find a resolution.
Of course, it doesn’t always go that way but it’s a great tool to use and even if it still goes bad you will feel better knowing that you have not blamed, criticised or character-assassinated the other person. We can’t control the other’s reaction, nor should we try.
If you would like help on how to address conflict in your life, email me or click the icon below to book a complementary Discovery Session.