Beet Life

Three Simple Rules When Resolving Or Dealing With Conflicts

Conflicts arise when a person’s needs are not met and is often triggered by fear, sense of unfairness, and difference in opinions, values or attitudes. People quarrel over chores, finances, timelines, territory, etc. You name it, people have fought about it. Here are three simple rules to keep in mind when resolving or dealing with a conflict:

1. The ‘fair’ solution is not always the best solution. A good solution to a problem is one that addresses the concerns and needs of each party in conflict.

The concept of dividing fault or splitting the difference equally as the fairest way of resolving a conflict is flawed because opposing parties usually do not want the same things even though they say they do. Consider this example:

Two daughters are fighting over the last lemon in the kitchen. Each say they want the lemon. They bicker for ten minutes and don’t listen to each other. The mother says, “split the lemon.” Both daughters do not want to split the lemon. The bickering goes on. The mother forces them to split the lemon in half. Both daughters walk away unhappy.

Without addressing each of her daughter’s concerns, the mother failed to realize that one daughter wanted to make lemonade and the other needed the lemon zest of a whole lemon to cook her favorite dish. Although both said they wanted the whole lemon, their needs differed. With this new information, it is clear that the best solution is to give one daughter lemon juice and the other lemon zest.

2. The more effective way of solving a dispute is to listen carefully to each person and use the information they give you to address their needs.

Of course, in a heated conversation, each party’s needs and wants will not be easily apparent. Deescalate the situation by making the speaker feel understood. Ask questions like “In my understanding, you said you want […] Is this correct?”. A question like this is useful because it reiterates what the speaker is saying and asking the speaker to reaffirm whether or not you understood him/her correctly. Not only does it deescalate a heated situation, it gives the speaker a chance to think about his/her needs by affirming or negating what you said.

3. Mind your language! State your wants and needs. Avoid talking in absolutes.

Only siths deal with absolutes. Don’t use sentences like these:

"You never take the trash out."
"You always forget to pick up the kids from school."
"You always fail to meet the deadline."

You + Absolute + Action conveys blame rather than cooperation. It escalates an already heated conversation. It may feel like the person never did what you asked or always failed to do what you wanted, but it won’t do you any good to verbalize that. You won’t get what you want if you speak in absolutes because it invites defensive action rather than cooperation. It steers the conversation away from the solution.

Use “I + need/want + person to do […]” instead. This is more effective because it conveys cooperation and invites action rather than a defensive act/reaction. For example,

"I want you to take the trash out every week."
"I need you to be consistent when picking the kids up from school."
"I want to know ahead of time if you are having a hard time meeting the deadline."

When you state your wants and needs, you are opening up a conversation and letting the other person know clearly what you want them to do. There is no shaming or blaming involved; therefore, the other person is more receptive to coming up with a solution to the problem.

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