It’s happened to every one of us. We’re getting along just fine with a friend, spouse or co-worker when suddenly we’re in the midst of a communication breakdown. Every conversation has become a sparring match and the conflict is escalating.
Here is some advice on what you should do next.
Ask for information
Let’s say you’re attempting to understand why your teen broke curfew. It’s all too easy to resort to questions such as “Where were you? Who were you with? Why weren’t you home on time?” Instead ask one question and then let your teen talk as much as he or she chooses. When he or she is finished, simply and quietly ask, “And then? ” You will be surprised to learn what the information, thoughts, and feelings come forward.
Allow a 15 second pause after hearing someone speak
Chances are the person will begin to add more information to what has already been said. As more information is revealed, you might find you gain a new perspective on the problem at hand.
Stay away from asking “Why?”
The word “why” implies one has made a wrong decision. Try asking: “How did you decide to quit your job?” Asking someone about how they came to make a decision shows you are trying to gain insight as to how they perceive the situation.
Write a script
Let’s say you’re exhausted on trying to reason, explain or defend your decision. Jot down a simple sentence on a piece of paper: I know you don’t understand why I feel this way but I’ve made my decision. Keep this note handy and repeat the statement until you have it memorized. The script can help you stay consistent rather than getting embroiled into an argument.
Speak only for yourself
Let’s say your conflict is with a friend who wants to borrow your car. You’ve lent the car to this person in the past but the car always comes back with an empty gas tank. You don’t want to lend the car now but your friend is pleading with you. You might be tempted to say, “I don’t want to lend you my car because I always end up having to fill the tank the next day.” But really, you don’t owe anyone any explanation. It’s just fine to say : “I know I lent you my car two months ago but it’s not available now.” The emphasis is upon the decision you have made instead of trying to defend your decision.
Through good communication skills, many conflicts can be minimized, resolved or diverted. To learn how effective these skills can be, try using one or two of these techniques before a conflict arises. And last of all remember the old adage: We’ve got two ears and one mouth for a very good reason!