You can create more peace in every conversation you have.
Too often fault and blame about the past gets in the way of successfully resolving conflicts, especially when there is a lot of emotion involved.
Here are five tips to reduce the risk of failing in difficult discussions when you could achieve an outcome that potentially works for everybody.
1. Don’t Find Fault
Let go of the need to be right. It is not productive to find out who’s at fault about anything. Fault-finding and blame diminish goodwill and leads to defensive behaviours for everybody. When you are angry, your first response may be to struggle with feeling empathy. Remember you always have choice. Develop the habit of identifying and talking about your underlying needs and not the character faults of others. While it can be challenging to be a little more open about your needs, sharing vulnerability creates trust.
2. See the Different Stories in the Conflict
Practice appreciating your differences. It’s likely that there are many ways to see this conflict/issue. So often our underlying need is to be acknowledged, listened to and to be understood. Remember to make the distinction between your ‘story’ about the conflict and possible mistakes in your own interpretations of events. Can you describe the other person’s point of view so that you know they feel heard and understood, before you need to put your own point of view across?
3. Be Future Focused
It is essential that the shared focus of discussion is about where-to-from here. Drop your resentments and attachment to past hurts, wounds and things that went wrong. Many people struggle to know what they really want as an outcome, and so they would rather focus on what they don’t want. This doesn’t help you move the conversation forward, find positive solutions or resolve your complaints. In fact, it is most likely that the other person will feel criticised and feel defensive. So talk about what you want to achieve, where you can be flexible and perhaps compromise. Let go of the ‘don’t want’ list, and look out for the ‘but’s that lead to a hidden criticism.
4. Take Responsibility
You share this problem. You are involved in the problem, and you are involved in the solution. Avoiding talking about issues will increase tensions. So will abruptness and criticism. It is much more useful to make repairs for your own actions than to focus on the other person should have done. Take responsibility for what you have contributed to the issues involved, whether it was your actions, or perhaps even inactions.
5. Try to Genuinely Forgive the Other Person
When you observe a negative characteristic in the other person’s actions, try to genuinely see that negative quality in yourself.
When you observe a positive characteristic in your actions, try to genuinely see that very same positive characteristic in the other person.
There needs to be a genuine decision to forgive the other person. This doesn’t mean your emotions will catch up immediately with your thinking, and you my still have to manage some difficult feelings and keep on working on your forgiveness skills. However, forgiveness goes both ways, so you can also let go of your feelings of guilt.