How many of our taxpayer dollars could be saved if members of Congress could drop their egos and collaborate rather than pointing fingers and not getting things done? If every elected official collaborated with each other in their work, the efficiency and effectiveness of government would soar. Cost savings would rise. And trust in government could be regained.
How many marriages could be saved if people knew how to stop yelling and start listening? How many times have you caught yourself in the middle of a seemingly polite discussion only to discover something just went terribly wrong? Words turn mean, tone of voice gets sharper, and faces turn red as you both walk away in anger. You’ve been there, done that, right?
So what do you do when civil conversations turn into conflict?
Through my years of conflict management coaching and time I served in the state Senate, there are a few tips that rise to the top that can be most helpful and easiest to remember in the heat of the moment.
● Listen - Avoid making assumptions about the other person. You have no idea what’s in their mind even if you think you do. The best way to deal with conflict is to prevent it, when possible, and the best way to do that is to listen first. And I’m not talking about pretending to listen while in your head you’re trying to figure out what to say next in “presenting your case.” I’m saying listening with focus on what the other person is sharing with the intention of truly understanding their thoughts and feelings. (Yup, I said the word “feelings.” Get over it.)
● Talk - Respectful honest sharing can go a long way to resolving conflict. Talking rather than shouting (or using your inside voice as teachers tell our kids) can help prevent tempers from flaring. Speaking authentically and truthfully can help keep the channels of communication open to prevent shutdowns or line-in-the-sand nights on the couch.
● Work it out - No other way to say this — resolving conflict takes time and work. Patience with each other, yourself, and the process is key to peace in the home, workplace, school or community. And fortitude to keep the conversations going, not giving up when you know there is a possible solution to the problem and healthy reason to maintain the relationship. We all have opinions, but if family, friends, neighbors, or coworkers are “getting into it” or YOU are getting a bit too aggressive, remember “fair fighting” rules. What’s most important in your relationship is not who’s right or wrong. Are there some people who might have to move out of your life every once in a while? Yes. But most of the time, we are capable of transforming through the conflict and improving our relationships.
If you want to know more about preventing or resolving conflict, this is the time because October is Conflict Resolution Month in Colorado, and there are workshops, classes, articles, books, films, and facilitation and mediation professionals available. Check out www.conflictresolutionmonth.org or email me with questions.
Linda Newell has termed out as the state Senator of Senate District 26 and is now educating people on how to understand and influence their government and managing conflict civilly. She may be reached at Senlindanewell@gmail.com, www.lindanewell.org, www.senlindanewell.com, @sennewell on Twitter, Senator Linda Newell or @TheLastBill on Facebook.
Read this article on The Littleton Independent here.