Conflict in a dramatic play or a movie, like Hamlet or Gone With the Wind, provides us with great entertainment. However, when the plot becomes a real life situation, the entertainment value is lost. A way to sweeten up difficult situations is to develop our “meditation” skills.
Yesterday on my morning power walk, one of my walking buddies shared a wonderful line that her father would always use in business, when connecting with someone that he needed to communicate with to solve a challenge or miscommunication.
I love his line, "I have a problem, maybe you can help me……." Those words are golden. They immediately diffuse any confrontation and when spoken sincerely we are asking the other person to help us. We all know that people enjoying helping another person when asked in a polite and non aggressive way.
Our conversation made me think of other ways that we can 'sweeten a sometimes potentially sour encounter.
For example, think of someone you’d like to have stronger communication with at work. Remember a time when you had a conflict with that person. How did you react? Consider how you could have acted differently by using the following techniques:
- Reframe what the other person said to you. Play back the message. However, this time use words that convey a more positive idea. Maybe the person was criticizing your style of doing business. At the heart of the message, was there constructive criticism that you translated into critical criticism? We often takes things personally instead of professionally.
- Edit your comments. Phrase your response so that you put water on the fire, instead of gasoline. This takes practice because our egos get in the way, and our first thought is that we want to strike back. Remember the line, 'for every action, there is a reaction'.
- Ask open-ended questions. By using the open-ended approach, you’ll find out exactly what the person wants or needs, and you’ll gather more information. For example, inquire, “What do you think lead up to this disagreement?” instead of, “Are you going to do what I ask, or not?”
- Listen. We were given two ears and one mouth for a reason, yet research shows that often we listen with only 13% efficiency. Actively listen and do so without interrupting – even though you want to. I often look at a sign that is on my desk that says "The most successful people when examined have teeth marks on their tongue!"
- Disarm. Help the other person to see the situation as a mutual challenge- and that you’re in it together. Work you hardest to stay under control, even though the other person might want to put up a fight. Just staying calm (this is not easy to do) can be a persuasion tactic. We’re taking a tense situation, and using this tactic to come to an agreement.
We all have plenty of opportunities to practice these techniques to arrive at a true win/win.