Written by Tom Roderick, Executive Director
of Educators for Social Responsibility Metro
Reprinted with permission from New York
Newsday, September 22, 1993
- Slow down the action. Many fights and arguments get
out of control very fast. Before reacting, take a deep breath, count to 10
to buy time to think. If possible, find a way to excuse yourself from the
situation for a moment so that you can collect yourself.
- Listen well. Don't interrupt. Hear the other person
out. Making eye contact, nodding, and saying "uh-huh" are ways to show you
are listening. It helps to paraphrase or state in your own words what you
hear the other person saying.
- Give the other person the benefit of the doubt. In
a conflict between two people, each person has feelings, each person has a
point of view. You may not agree with the other person, but try to understand
where s/he is coming from. Ask open-ended questions to get information about
how the other person sees things. Try to listen with an open mind. If you
see that you have done something wrong, don't hesitate to apologize.
- Acknowledge the other person's feelings. When people
believe they've been listened to, they generally become less angry and more
open to listening to what the other person has to say. Statements like "I
can see you're angry" or "You really feel strongly about this" tend to diffuse
the anger and open up communication.
- Be strong without being mean. Express your needs and
your point of view forcefully, but without "dissing" or putting the other
person down. Use "I-messages" to communicate how you are feeling rather than
"You-messages" that put the blame on the other person. Name-calling, blaming,
bossing and threatening tend to block communication and escalate conflict.
- Try to see a conflict as a problem to be solved, rather
than a contest to be won. Attack the problem, not the other person. Try to
get away from fighting over who's right and who's wrong. Ask instead: What
do I need? What does the other person feel they need? Is there a way we can
both get what we want?
- Set your sights on a "win-win" solution. In a win-win
solution, both parties get what they want and come away happy. This requires
good listening on both sides and creative thinking. If a win-win solution
is not possible, you many have to settle for a compromise, where each person
gets something and gives up something. A compromise is a lot better than violence.
- If you don't seem to be getting anywhere in solving a
conflict, ask for help. Of course, you'll need agreement from the other
person that help is needed and you'll have to agree on who the third party
should be. But a third party can be helpful. Try to find someone who is a
good listener. Tell the third party their role is to help the people in the
conflict talk with each other, not to take sides.
- Remember that conflict, handled well, can lead to personal
growth and better relationships. Try to see the conflict as an opportunity.
Working through the conflict with a friend can lead to greater closeness.
Hearing other points of view can introduce us to new ideas and increase our
understanding of ourselves and other people.
- The true heroes and sheroes of today's world are not the
Rambos. They are those who have the courage and intelligence to deal with
conflict in creative, nonviolent ways.
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