Have you ever noticed when you are faced with a conflict situation you have a choice?
Do we just keep on arguing or do we say, ‘no this isn’t getting me anywhere! I need to strive for an outcome – to try and resolve the issue.’
It is very normal to find ourselves in a debate with others from time to time. Sometimes what starts out as a healthy debate can become more of a heated discussion.
It is when you transition from a heated discussion into a full-blown argument that problems begin. Suddenly there are heightened emotions and increased levels of frustration, and it all becomes about being right and wrong. Under these circumstances it is nearly impossible to reach a win/win outcome as people have usually lost all sense of being rational.
The key is to be able to stop the discussion before it becomes an argument. It is all about being able to get off the ‘merry-go-round’ so that you can start thinking win/win, not win/lose.
Continual argument doesn’t get us anywhere and at their worst, arguments can spiral out of control into nasty exchanges, with the potential to destroy relationships.
When you next are confronted with a discussion that looks/feels like it is becoming an argument, follow these five steps so that you can reach an outcome that both sides can live with:
- Stick to the facts – Describe the situation that you are confronted with in factual terms – not opinion or ‘hearsay’. Ask people for actual evidence. If you don’t have evidence at the time, it is best to stop until all evidence has been gathered. Questions such as what happened, when, who said what are good starting points.
- Encourage people to say how they feel and why – Feelings are very important to hear and share as they help you to understand not only your own point of view, but that of others. It can be quite informative and sometimes surprising to hear how others are viewing the same situation.
- Ask open questions – show you generally want to understand – “Why do you think that?”; “What is it that I do that upsets you?” Avoid making statements like “You always say that.”; “It’s not my fault you think that.” Statements often back people into a corner and if this happens they will become defensive and then will have difficulty seeing both sides.
- Demonstrate you are listening – Repeat back to the person what you have heard them say. Determine what parts of what they have said you can take on board. Admitting this to the other person may lead the way for them to do the same about something you’ve said. A bit of ‘give’ in the conversation goes a long way in meeting people halfway and increases the chances of a win/win.
- Aim for a win/win outcome – How can we come up with an outcome that meets both of our needs (or part of them)? Getting some of what you both want is better than someone getting 100% and the other getting none.
Please note that these are only tips and not a remedy for a solution.
Every situation is different. The most important point in problem solving and conflict is that both parties must want an outcome. Sometimes in order to make this happen it might be best for both people to walk away and come back to resolve the issues at a later time when you have both had time to cool down.
You may also find that a rational approach (the above 5 steps) is not what people are used to following when approaching situations. Arguing is their only method.
However, the one thing you can do is to demonstrate rational problem solving skills and use a process. You never know, others may notice and follow your lead.