¨The quality of our lives depends not on whether or not we have conflicts, but on how we respond to them¨. Thomas Crum
Take some time to think what does conflict mean to you? What is you natural response to conflict? Are you a conflict seeker or avoider?
There is no right answer. The important is to define how do you deal with conflicts and how does it influence your well-being and life quality.
Last week I had a chance to participate in an international workshop on conflict resolution which I found extremely useful. This was very practical session and today I would like to share with you this technique. This is very known technique of non-violent communication by Marshall Rosenberg.
But hey, how many of us really apply it while managing conflicts? Once this workshop has finished all of the participants realized how difficult is to “train” our brain to stop accusations and blaming mode. This requires practice! So let’s start practicing today.
Even if you are already aware of this technique – this is a great reminder of how different interaction between both parts can be while applying this exercise! As usually, all my posts are practical, this is the only way to take the most out of it and apply it in your life.
Therefore, get ready to write down your answers.
Prepare a pen and a paper. Ready?
Think about any of the conflict you currently have in your life. It can be personal or professional – anything that you describe as a conflict.
And now, write down your reaction to it.
First of all, what is your natural response? Do you get aggressive? Do you tend to avoid it?
Write down what did you say to the person, how did you manage the conflict or plan to manage it? Or maybe it is your request, tone of voice that led to a conflict?
Take some time to describe this situation and write down your responses.
Now let’s see how we can apply the strategy of non-violent communication by Marshall Rosenberg.
I will take the concrete example to make it more practical.
Let’s imagine the following situation: wife is complaining to her husband, that the house is a mess and he is never helping her with house duties (cleaning, cooking, etc.).
Wife’s speech to her husband is the following: “You are never at home to help me with cleaning”.
The way we approach other person matters a lot! The way we speak and approach other people is crucial and the health of our relationships will depend on how we make other people feel.
The entire exercise consists of 4 steps:
Step 1: Observe facts – start with “I see”.
This is about observation of the reality without evaluating or interpreting. Describe the observable facts: the concrete actions that affect your well-being, instead of interpreting or making judgements.
In our example wife could observe the fact by saying:
“I see that during the last 2 months I take care of all cleaning duties on my own”.
Step 2: Identify your feelings/emotions – continue with “I feel”.
Express feelings or emotions related with what you are observing.
In our example, wife could express her feeling as following:
“I feel sad and lonely, while taking care of our house on my own”
Step 3: Identify your needs – continue with “I need”.
Express needs, values and desires responsible for the emotion.
Ask yourself what is your core need in this relationship?
In our example wife’s answer could be as follows:
“I need support and appreciation”.
Step 4: Identify your request – close with request “Could you please…”
Finally, express your request by sharing concrete actions that make the situation better.
In our example, wife could request as follows:
“Could you please dedicate 2 hours of your time every week to help me with cleaning and cooking?”
Do you see the shift? What is changing in this approach?
Yes, there is no blame, but the following path is in place: observation – expressing our feelings – expressing our needs – making request.
I would say that almost in every situation we could apply this technique, do you agree?
For majority of situation – yes, for others when this does not work – the question for you is: does the person in front of me really care about situation and is willing to build healthy relationship? If the answer is “no”, you decide what is next.
As you have already noticed, there is a lot of speaking only in the first person – “I”, we do not want to blame others for how we feel.
The idea is to see the facts, which is the most challenging I would say. Because we always apply our emotions first, this is when it converts to blame, mistrust and misbehavior.
Instead imagine you share video with your friend, and on this video you see the facts of the situation (“I see you raised your voice, “I see I am doing it on my own”).
And now let’s get back to your initial conflict.
1. What can you observe in your conflict without blaming other person? (remember this is a movie scene you are sharing with your friends, how would you describe it?)
How do you turn your initial speech to the observation without evaluating or interpreting?
Try several times and see the effect it produces in you – imagine if someone comes with this statement, does that force you to defend yourself? If the answer is yes, you might reconsider and try again.
The statement should be the most neutral as possible.
2. How do you feel? How does this action or inaction made you feel?
“I feel sad because of you” – NO! (this would be blame again, try to describe your feeling without pointing fingers).
“I feel sad. It makes me feel …”
Just describe your feelings and emotions, no accusations.
3. What is your primary need at this point?
“I need some quality time with my spouse, …”
“I need to feel loved and understood,…”
4. What is your request?
What action would make the situation better, easier and would improve quality of your relationship/work?
“Could I ask you,.. could you please…?”
I would love to hear how did you apply this technique and what changes did you notice!
To change the way we used to deal with conflict – it’s a huge work, but the first step is to become aware of our style, of our attitude while we are in a conflict. The real challenge is to start changing our accusation mode. And after to observe the change of attitude. The real change is happening within us and after we start making different impact on others.
Whenever you’re in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.
What is your attitude in your conflict?