In some of the best stories we read and movies we love, there is conflict. It is part of the journey to see how the drama will unfold. How will the person deal with this tension and can it be resolved? Will they make up or break up? It is one thing to watch it unfold in a fiction scenario, it’s another to live it firsthand. Many times, when conflict is not dealt with it will snowball into something larger or rob us of our peace. But how can we live at peace with others, yet still feel our opinions are valued.
You know that saying, “we will agree to disagree.” Very easy to say. Harder to manage. Because we must try to understand where the other person is coming from, even if we don’t agree. We should try to have empathy and compassion, even if they don’t deserve it. Don’t most conflicts have the basic premise that I am right, and you are wrong, so let me prove my point? Should we enter the disagreement with only the goal to win? What if the purpose of the dispute is to learn, grow and come out of it a more empathetic person? What if the purpose of the disagreement is an opportunity for connection?
An author and leading research expert in vulnerability, Brene Brown, has been someone that I have learned a lot from about how we interact as human beings in relationships. She wrote a book called Braving the Wilderness where she talks about stepping into those tough conversations instead of avoiding them. But it requires courage and strength. One of the chapters in her book is titled, People are hard to hate close up. Move in. Wow, if that isn’t convicting. One of the lines in this chapter reads, “When we commit to getting closer, we are committing to eventually experiencing real, face-to-face conflict. Whether it’s over dinner, at work, or in the grocery line, in-person conflict is always hard and uncomfortable.”
Commit to learn
Since as moms we are always teaching our children the alphabet, it seemed like this 5-step method would be the easiest to learn. If you’ve worked in any corporation, there is a chance you’ve been part of a conflict resolution workshop. Below is a method that I learned when attending a recent one. It is called the AEIOU Communication Method (Conflict Resolution Workshop, BCPS).
A – Assume the other person means well. Identify his or her positive intention and state it to the other person.
E – Express your feelings. Affirm the positive intention you’ve identified and express your own specific concern.
I – Identify the desired outcome. Non-defensively propose the changes you would like to see occur. Say “ I would like” as opposed to “I want.”
O – State the outcome you would like. Emphasize the positive expectations for both of you. Emphasize the advantages of the outcome.
U – Understanding – “Could we agree to this for a while and see if it works out for both of us?” The other person has the option to accept your proposal. Be ready to consider an alternative.
Conflict does have a cost. The question we ask ourselves is are we willing to pay the price. We can step into it with a goal to learn and experience resolution. Many times just listening is the first step. It is true, disagreement is an opportunity for connection. You get to decide if it is worth the risk, but the results can be priceless and last a lifetime.