Learning how to communicate better in conflict is a critical skill for all of us.
Generally, people do not communicate effectively when they are in conflict with someone else.
Whether the conflict is with a spouse, partner, family member, friend, or employer, communicating with the other person in the conflict can be extremely difficult.
Typical Bad Communication
I imagine many of you reading this article have heard statements like the following:
- "You never listen to me."
- “I know you intended to hurt me!”
- "You know I am right, and that you are to blame for this."
- "What you are saying simply can't be true because I know what the truth really is."
- "You are not allowed to be that way."
- "If you would just change and see things my way, this wouldn't be so difficult."
For many reasons, people often leave arguments or conflicts wondering "how in the world am I going to fix this?" Fortunately, there are some fantastic skills one can learn to communicate and resolve conflicts in a more constructive, respectful, and healthy way.
Why Communication During a Conflict Fails
First, we should examine one of the key reasons communication in the midst of conflict is typically non-productive.
Conflicting Perceptions and Values
Conflicts really boil down to conflicting perceptions and values. We each see the world differently. We see the world through a different pair of glasses or a unique lens. Our lens on the world is filtered or colored by our life experiences and values. No two people have exactly the same life experiences and values. Therefore, each person will naturally have a unique perspective on the world and on a conflict.
It is the lack of appreciation and understanding of these differences that perpetuates conflict instead of moving people closer to resolution.
Become a Better Communicator in Conflict
Listen to Understand
The first and one of the most important skills to learn is what I refer to as "Listening to Understand." A frequent complaint of people in conflict is that they don't feel heard.
Don't Defend a Position
People in conflict have a tendency to defend a position rather than seeking to understand the other person's perspective on the conflict. The position being defended is merely one person's perspective that they believe is right.
Thus, a typical argument will look like a volleyball match.
Each person tries to convince the other person that their perspective is right. And that the other person's perspective is wrong. This is very much like a volleyball being tossed over the net from one side to the other.
Have a Learning Conversation
To be a better communicator during conflict, turn the communication into an opportunity to learn. Demonstrating a willingness to listen to other perspectives. Acknowledging that every perspective has merit will help you reach the crux of a conflict more effectively than trying to defend a position.
One of our most basic needs as human beings is to be understood and appreciated. Showing another that you are willing to listen and consider their perspective demonstrates that you care. Demonstrate to the other person that you understand what they are saying and how they are feeling to help them feel heard.
A Learning Conversation - How To
Consider using one or more of the following statements with someone you are in conflict with:
“It seems like you and I are seeing the tension between us differently. Neither perspective is right or wrong, merely different. Please help me understand your perspective better.”
“I have no idea what your intentions were when you said those words to me. I know what my intentions were when I responded to you. Please tell me more about your intentions yesterday.”
Turning your conversation into a learning conversation by listening to understand the other person's perspective will help you resolve your conflicts more quickly and more often in a more constructive, respectful, and healthy way.
Give it a try!